[2007.02.28 - 07:00 P.M.]

The Ride Down

Friday afternoon is cold and overcast. We're flying through the curves on route 8 as it swings back and forth between the hills of the Naugatuck River valley, then onto the Merritt Parkway for the straight shot down into Westchester County. As is always the case before a big social event, I am focused intently on getting to our destination. I want to be there. The happy buzz of anticipation shades into impatience. I am not in the moment. I am about three hours ahead of the moment.

Tracy and I are discussing our expectations of the gathering at Tart's place. She asks if I think that all these people, most of whom haven't met in person before, will find it difficult to get a conversation going. Ha! No way, I respond. You're talking about bloggers here. If anything, there might be issues getting people to stop talking.

The Merritt becomes the Hutch which forks onto the Cross County which deposits us on the Sawmill which turns into the Henry Hudson. I love the parkway system around the New York area. Five thousand ways to get from any point A to any point B. My kind of driving. The city itself? Not so much. I tense up as we push our way in fits and starts through the traffic and stoplights of the upper west side, jumpy as hell in the chaotic mix of random, aggressive drivers. Tracy notes (as she always does) that I should let her drive next time. Finally, we dump the car off at a garage up the street from our destination. We have arrived.

The Apartment

Outer lock. Inner lock. Up the stairs. One more lock, but whatever we do don't touch the bottom lock on the door. So we'd been warned by my cousin Kristin, who had gone up to Boston with her husband Tom to do some house hunting and was kind enough to let us use their pad for our party weekend. The living room is bright and the place is huge, at least by "affordable Manhattan housing" standards. Best of all, it comes with a cat: The ultimate accessory for our two-day Living-In-New-York-City fantasy getaway.

Nightmarish Subway Interlude - Episode I

From 96th, we take the 1, a local, to Columbus Circle, where we change for the F, which will take us down and across town. It is an uneventful ride until, out of nowhere, a piercing, high-pitched sound fills the subway car. It is similar in pitch and intensity to the shriek of those office fire alarms which are designed to make you flee the building as fast as humanly possible. Except this was no fire alarm, and we couldn't flee. My head jerks around and I spot the young black woman at the end of the car from whose mouth this banshee noise had come. Before I can turn back she locks onto my eyes. With a look of unhinged, sadistic glee, she shrieks again. I hear her companion muttering to her to be quiet and then a defiant response. Again, the sound. I steadfastly stare out the window. Tracy reports that the woman is still staring at us. We're both starting to get freaked out. Several more auditory stabs punctuate our progress until, mercifully, we arrive at our Second Ave stop. Half afraid that our tormentor might follow us, we escape to the platform.

DBA

Mike is asking me if I like Curb Your Enthusiasm. I report that, despite several efforts by my friend Fridge to get me into the program, I cannot stand Curb Your Enthusiasm. Larry David's entire personality just makes me want to punch him in the face. We're sitting in the back booth at DBA, a dimly lit bar with a kick-ass selection of beer on tap. I learn that, despite his enthusiasm for Curb, Mike didn't actually care for Seinfeld (a first, in my experience). Leaving the fertile conversational ground of television, we discuss 70's era muscle cars and how he went from thinking the Mach 1 was cool in his youth to now considering all fast-backs stupid looking. We talk about driving styles, at which point he and Tracy form a Type-A Drivers Alliance and gang up on me. Increasingly comfortable as I move onto my third beer, I flirt with disaster by making a comment about stereotypical Jewishness. I recover by pointing out that I mean this in the best possible way, and that my wife is, in fact, a bit of a Jew Groupie. All is well.

Freezing in Brooklyn

It is 50 degrees below zero and we are 87 blocks from Tart's apartment. Or so it seems. We trudged like extras from March of the Penguins up the avenue towards our destination. Full bladders didn't help matters. Thankfully, the proprietors of the wine store we ducked into were happy to let us use their bathroom. We arrive at Tart's apartment and, staying only long enough to develop quick visual impressions of the environs (small) and of Chemist (shorter than I pictured), Mike and I deposit Tracy and the wine, then turn right around and head back out into the blustery tundra of Brooklyn to stock up on beer. Into the nearest package store. Mmmmmm. Ommegang. Mike goes with their eponymously named brew while I grab a Three Philosophers. Then I get a six pack of Magic Hat's HiPA and Mike grabs the Brooklyn IPA, setting the stage for an IPA-off later.

The Party

Tracy and I sit on Tart's couch giving Chemist the traditional Travellers Q & A: How long was your flight? When did you get in? Been out to see anything yet? Easy way to get the ball rolling. Well, that and the beer. Soon, the five of us -- Tracy, myself, Chemist, Tart and Mike -- are discussing blogs and blogging. We talk about Shakes' place, where we all first made each others' acquaintance, and how it had grown and changed over the years. We talk about various denizens of our extended virtual community. We get a little geeky, discussing the relative merits of Blogger's commenting system versus Haloscan's.

The Party Train
Has Left The Station

Others begin arriving. First some friends of Tart whose names I do not recall but who were quite well dressed. Then Angelos and Erica. Then Maurinsky, with Loki and Monkey in tow. Then more people from Tart's local circle of friends. The apartment begins to approach clown-car density. I slide from one conversation to the next in Brownian fashion, digging on the whole atmosphere as my beer buzz passes through Peak Sociability en route to the long, gradual descent into Comatose International Airport.

Why, no. I have no idea
What I was thinking.

Tart is in full-on hostess mode for most of the evening, rolling out a seemingly endless variety of appetizers and finger foods. Tracy raves to me about the gourmet-caliber salami slices. I eat the last two of these, which prove delicious. Oh, but the mini pizzas, they are the treat that woos my gustatorial attentions and holds them in a vice-like grip. Damn these are good. I could eat a half dozen of these. (I believe I may have.)

The beer is amazing, just as you'd expect with so many certified beer nuts gathered together in one place. Chemist has brought a ton of fine brews out from the West Coast. Angelos arrived with a selection of additional delicacies. Mike and I had, as mentioned, done our part to ensure easy inebriation. The resulting Beer Environment is unlike anything I'd been exposed to at a private party before. The weakest brew on the premises clocks in at around 7.5% ABV. The highest is a sobriety-crushing 21% which will, I later learn, bring Chemist's night to a somewhat unceremonious close.

Two Arms? Bring It On!

Eventually, I settle in next to Maurinsky on the couch, where I make feeble attempts at conversation as my consciousness ebbs and flows through our local corner of space-time. Here, the tale of the tape gets a little disjointed. I do recall an extended sequence where Monkey was determinedly trying to pull my arm out of its socket. I don't recall the epic WWF Smackdown between Mike and Loki. (Note to male party-goers: If you're at a party and the booze is flowing heavily and you have a choice between arm wrestling a nine-year-old girl or a fully-grown man, go with the girl. You're more likely to win and she's less likely to care.) At some point, a beer is placed in the freezer. Later, it explodes.

And then, just like that*, we're leaving! (*Insert head nods right about here.) There is the gathering of coats. The last-minute exchange of phone numbers and next-day plans. We trickle out into the streets of Park Slope.

Nightmarish Subway Interlude - Episode II

Heading back uptown. At some point, Maurinsky and company veer off to go to their hotel, Mike switches trains to head towards Queens, and Angelos and Erica get off. (The train.) Shortly thereafter, Tracy and I are standing alone on a platform, waiting to change to whatever train will take us to where we're going most quickly. Four tracks away on the opposite platform, there is some weird shit going on. A homeless guy is running his mouth about something and a sizeable posse of young gangsta-looking men start harassing him back. For a moment it looks like he's going to get beat down right in front of us, but then some subway track workers step in and defuse things. Creeped out by our second Bad Subway Experience of the day, we finally catch the A train back to 96th, where we walk four short blocks and two long blocks through the frigid city back to our temporary home.

Coccoon

The master bedroom of Kristin & Tom's apartment is the perfect environment for sleeping in late after a night of revelry. North-facing windows equipped with blackout curtains. Extraordinarily comfortable bed. We sleep like the dead until 10:00 AM and awake surprisingly refreshed for two people who had partied into the morning hours.

At 10:45 AM I call Tart. We plan to meet at the High Street station in Brooklyn at 12:15 PM. In my mind, this is a half-hour subway ride. In my mind, this is a half-hour subway ride. This is key: In my mind, this is a half-hour subway ride.

I happily squander the one-hour differential between the moment when I achieve readiness for departure and the moment when Tracy does so surfing the net and drinking coffee. We leave at 11:40 AM. At a local Subway (the fast-food chain, not the mode of transportation) we split a foot-long Italian mixed. Then it is down to the bowels of the city once more.

No trains
running.
Ever.

Nightmarish Subway Interlude - Episode III

The 3 approaches, an express. We get on it, planning to disembark at Columbus Circle as we had the previous day to switch to the A or C. The 3 sails straight through Columbus Circle. Fuck. Change of plans. We'll switch at Chambers Street. The 3 stops at 14th Street. We are informed it will be going no further. Quickly, we rush across the platform and get through the doors of a departing 1. The 1 takes us to Chambers Street. It is 12:10. I call Tart to inform her that we will not be in Brooklyn in five minutes. We frantically navigate a maze of tunnels and stairs to get us to the platform for the blue line. There appear to be no Brooklyn-bound A or C trains. We wait for an eternity. Finally, an A appears, but it seems headed the wrong way. We ask if it goes to Brooklyn. The transit worker tells us yes. We get on. The A begins moving uptown. I burst several capillaries. A helpful fellow traveller patiently explains that we can get the downtown A back to Brooklyn at 14th street (where, you'll recall, we'd been a while back). We arrive at 14th. The Brooklyn-bound side of the platform is completely taped off. We explain our dillemma to a woman on the platform who says, yes, the A is running to Brooklyn, but it's on the F line. As we cross through a tunnel to emerge on the F line platform, my brain slowly digests "A train running on F line". This gives me mental indigestion.

Subway Rat Says:
"Stupid Tourists!"

It is 12:40. I call Tart to inform her that we are further away than we were the last time I called. Another eternity passes. (That's two eternities in one trip!) Tracy and I kill the time looking for rats. We locate one. Tracy throws him a chip, but he's more interested in the newspaper down there. That's a Manhattan rat. We take several pictures of the rat. The stares of our fellow platform dwellers inform us that this has set our NYC street cred back at least a decade. The F finally arrives. We take it to Jay Street in Brooklyn. Now, the last leg. From the F platform we go downstairs, then back up to emerge on the A platform, where we must take the A one stop back towards Manhattan. We emerge from High Street station exactly one hour and fifteen minutes after our agreed upon time of 12:15 PM. In my mind, getting from 96th street in Manhattan to Brooklyn would never again be a half hour subway ride.

Tart & Chemist
on the Brooklyn Bridge

The Bridge

I think to myself: This is like living in HDTV when you're used to living in regular definition. Chemist, Tart, Tracy and I are strolling up the pedestrian walkway of the Brooklyn Bridge, approaching the Brooklyn-side tower. Following some confusion as to which of the many High Street Station egress points they were at, we had stopped for a bathroom break and then headed across. After all that nonsense, it's worth the wait. The day is stunning. The high-30's temperatures feel tropical after the previous night. The sky is cloudless.

Greatest. City. Ever.

Near the center of the span, we stop to survey the city skyline. Everything is crystalline perfection. You could stand here from sunrise to sunset drinking in details and not get bored. As we scan the southern tip of Manhattan, conversation turns to the absence of the twin towers, as it is bound to. I feel a wistful melancholy, which is an improvement over the sad ache of two years ago, which was in turn an improvement over the cold anger of the years before that. I ask Tart, who had been to the city before 9-11, if she'd ever had a chance to go to the observation deck at the Trade center. She hadn't. We move on, passing through the Manhattan-side tower. I pause for a second to stare up at the apex of the gothic arch. I love this bridge.

Yup. It's A Pillow Fight.

Pillow Fight

Walking up out of the subway after an uneventful (!) ride, we head across the street towards Union Square. At the center of the square is a huge crowd having what looks like a pillow fight. White objects wave frantically across the top of a bobbing mass of people. Suddenly, a puff of feathers bursts skyward. Yep, they're having a pillow fight. Turns out some dude organizes this event every year. Supposed to be the largest of its kind. As we skirt the perimeter of the madness, a man in a Batman mask rushes past us with a pillow and a manic grin, seeking re-entry to the fray. Man, people are goofy.

Monster Urinals

Lunch

We have lunch at the Old Town Bar & Restaurant on 18th Street. It's mobbed. I head to the men's room, where I am bowled over at the sight of the largest urinals in the history of the known uiverse. The four of us then pile into a small booth and order the first beers of the day. A toast is raised: "To Not Being a Bunch of Weirdos!" Shortly, Angelos, Erica and Mary (a friend who they're staying with) arrive to join us. This is problematic, as we only have two chairs at the end of the booth. Erica squeezes in beside me and any concept of elbow room instantly vanishes. We try to make the best of the situation, but Tracy is getting more claustrophobic by the second, squished into the corner. Erica switches to Tart and Chemist's side of the booth. Crisis averted (for our side of the table) we partake of sandwiches, beer, and bar food. It's fun, but Tracy and I are definitely running low on gas. After lunch, we decide to break ranks and head back uptown for a nap.

Nightmarish Subway Interlude - Episode IV

The uptown 1 is the most packed subway car I've ever been on, and that includes those times when I'd take the Orange Line home from North Station after a concert got out at Boston Garden. Tracy and I are two of the last people to jam into the few remaining square feet of space. We're barely in the door. An obnoxious-sounding woman outside yells "What?! You people can't make room?" Half the car yells back "NO!" in unison. Just south of 72nd Street, the conductor announces that she's been informed that our train will be running express between 72nd and 96th. Good for Tracy and me. Bad, apparently, for the droves of people who exit at 72nd. Not for the first time, I wonder what kind of half-assed show NYC Transit is running this weekend.

Nap

Our nap lasted all of 30 minutes. Pre-nap activities included 1.) An argument in Duane Reade regarding precisely how long a person should be gone for when they know their husband is already waiting in the checkout line, and 2.) A shave that was so ferociously bad it took five paper towels to sop up all the blood afterwards. (Note to my male readers: Do not ever use Bic's "Comfort 3" series disposable razor. In fact, do not use disposable razors, period.)

Nightmarish Subway Interlude - Episode V

We hop on the 1 train to head down to 51st Street, near where we'll be having dinner. As we pull into 72nd Street the conductor announces that our train will be running express to 42nd Street, nine short blocks further south than we want to be and two long blocks further east. I convince Tracy that it will be quicker to get off at 72nd and hoof it the remaining 21 short blocks. Foolishly, she acquiesces. By the time we hit 9th Ave and 60th, my shins feel ready to explode out the front of my pants and the ball of my right foot, still all fucked up from my Karate injury last Fall, is screaming at me "It's only 20 blocks! It's only 20 blocks! Fuckin' smart-ass!"

Ouzaria

Ever see one of those art house films that takes place in a restaurant and is basically one long conversation between colorful characters and every minute of that conversation is witty and fascinating? We are living one. Tart had made reservations at Uncle Nick's, a Greek restaurant, for 8:00 PM. Angelos had then suggested meeting an hour early at Ouzaria, a bar/restaurant that is run as an adjunct to Uncle Nick's, for pre-dinner cocktails. Once the first eight of our gang is installed, however, Tart smartly decides that's where we'll stay.

The atmosphere is perfect. Intimate enough for sustained conversation without being too quiet or stuffy. Eventually, we fill four tables for four. In addition to the previous evening's 'Festers, we meet Leslie of the blog Plum Crazy and a Shaker named Space Cowboy and his girlfriend.

For four straight hours we sit and eat and drink and talk in a set of ever-shifting conversational constellations. Bottle of wine after bottle of wine arrives on our table at Angelos' expert direction. Every fifteen minutes or so the room is punctuated by a whomp! sound and a burst of light as the waiters bring out cast-iron plates of brandy-soaked cheese and ignite them. (This particular appetizer was the food highlight of my night. I may even have to try it at home, after I get the special "Cheese Fire Rider" added to our homeowners policy.)

I won't even attempt to reconstruct the dialog going on around me. You truly had to be there.

I will mention that this is when Tracy eats a fish eyeball. Tart's friend Amy throws out an open $5 dare on the matter. Tracy has stepped away for a minute, but I volunteer her eyeball-eating services. See, we had previously arranged that, were we ever to land a spot as contestants on The Amazing Race, her job would be to eat any gross stuff that came our way. I figure this is a great opportunity to see what she is made of. She returns and I explain the bet. Without hesitation she agrees and a plate is passed our way. Now, if forced to do this, I would swallow the little suckers like gel caps. Not my Tracy. She chews the thing, crunching the lens and savoring (blech) the salty taste. The audience is shocked and awed, particularly Monkey, who, rumor has it, has since built a shrine to my wife in her room.

Around 11:00 PM we finally call for the check. $65 a person for four hours of continuous enjoyment. A pittance.

Tart Glares
Tracy Stares

Last Call

Each of the rathskeller-like tables has giant beer towers on them. Good sign. About a dozen of us had trundled our sated asses over to a bar a few blocks from Ouzaria. The final hours of TartFest had arrived. Above the bar a soccer game plays, leading me to strike up a conversation with Tart and Chemist on the subject. Both are avid soccer fans. This does not surprise me so much with regard to Chemist, who likes sports generally. Tart, however, does not like any other sports at all. Just soccer. I find this baffling and say as much. She dismisses me with a disdainful glare.

Angelos, Toast, Tart, Chemist

After a couple of beers, I switch, at long last, to whiskey. It is the only way to wrap things up. I buy a couple of glasses of Jameson's for Chemist and myself. (He later reports that this stood him in good stead, fortifying his buzz for the train ride home.) Some time in the early hours of morning, everyone pours out of the bar and says their goodbyes. A five minute cab ride and Tracy and I are crashed out in bed.

Hangover, Cat, Bagels

Again, we roll out of bed around 10:00 AM. Unlike the previous day, I have a pretty brutal hangover. I cannot not close my eyes without feeling intense vertigo. We call Tart and confirm that she and Chemist will be stopping by for bagels and coffee before we leave town.

Tracy goes to the store and brings back bagels and a giant Gatorade for me. I play with the cat. Surf the web. Play with the now somewhat spastic cat. Tracy makes coffee around noon. (No word from Tart.) We drink coffee. Watch the Huskies game on TV. Play with the increasingly freaked out cat. Finally, around 1:30 PM, Tart calls from up the street. The Subway Gods have taken her and Chemist on a wild ride through Queens on their journey from Brooklyn to the upper west side. (I believe this was their way of admonishing her for busting my balls the previous day.)

Together, we partake of delicious New York City deli-style bagels.

And then it is time to go.

The End. For now...

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[2007.02.28 - 10:00 A.M.]

Last Thirteen:

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[2007.02.27 - 11:30 A.M.]

Check out the picture of Laura Bush in this post at Josh Marshall's place. Is it my imagination, or is she starting to look like her husband? Downward jut to the nose, angry squint to the eyes, pugnacious cast to the lips. (shudder) That picture is skeeving me out.

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[2007.02.25 - 06:45 P.M.]

12:13 PM: Finishing on a high note here. Tracy is raving about how Diane Keaton looks. (She does look phenomenal tonight.) And the Best Picture Oscar goes to... The Departed! Which, coincidentally, is what we are. We are departing for the bedroom. Good night.

12:08 PM: Scorsese! Awesome. This dude rocks. Can't believe he's never won before.

12:04 PM: Good lord, Forrest. Enough with the over-wrought acceptance speeches.

11:59 PM: Do you think that, when Cadillac was picking the Pogues' Sunnyside Of The Street as the song for their shitty new SUV ad -- the ad which features an obviously well-off couple and their kids departing their spotless McMansion -- that they actually listened to what Shane McGowan was singing? You know, the part where he says "with a heart full of hate and a lust for vomit"? 'Cause I'm thinking they didn't. Either that or I just witnessed the world's worst attempt at irony in advertising.

11:54 PM: Yay! Helen Mirren! Yay! Oh, and hey, Oscar people: These little stories the voice-over guy is telling as the winners walk up to the stage? Not working.

11:52 PM: Holy shit. Phillip Seymour Hoffman looks like he just crawled out of a dumpster.

11:51 PM: OK, here's the deal: If the very next thing they do is not one of the three major awards, Tracy and I are going to bed in protest.

11:42 PM: Best film editing. At almost quarter to midnight they're doing best film editing. This is after another shitty, pointless, ten-minute montage. Unbelievable. These people are sadists.

11:37 PM: You. Have. Got. To. Be. Kidding. Me.

11:24 PM: Six minutes to go until the scheduled end time, we've got the Big Three awards to get through, and they're fucking around with this endless Motowny-Gospel shit. I think we've seen more musical performances tonight than there were at the fucking Grammys.

10:54 PM: These long-ass montages for shit that I don't care about are getting seriously annoying.

10:48 PM: An Inconvenient Truth won best documentary. Excellent. Ooooh. The director is thanking Al for his vision. I'm getting a little verklempt.

10:39 PM: Tracy's out like a light on the couch. Still have Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Film left to go, and yet they're talking about more performances and crap. Argh. And as kate said, what's with shifting this back half an hour? It's already the world's longest awards show, and they had to push it further back to boot?

9:45 PM: Not a fan of the new-school computer-animated cartoons -- that shit where they mixed the "nominees" in with the audience was fucking cornball -- but I am glad that Happy Feet beat out that stupid Cars flick. That movie just looked like one giant marketing scam from start to finish.

9:36 PM: Ah! Al Gore. Thank you, Oscar people. I love Al Gore. God, I so hope he runs in '08. He'd be the perfect antidote to Hillary... Oh, Al, you son of a bitch. I thought he was really going to announce. Right there. Damn you, man. Don't toy with me like that. (Tracy: "I would have actually peed myself.")

9:35 PM: Back-to-back musical performances? Come on. Trying to stay awake here. Give me something.

9:14 PM: That sound-effects symphony group was wicked cool. Took me ten full seconds to figure out what the hell they were doing - that they were making the sounds I thought were coming out of the screen behind them. That's wild.

9:06 PM: West Bank Story. Priceless. Have to see that. Where do you see shorts, though, outside of film festivals? I wonder if YouTube has this sort of thing now.

9:04 PM: Things are getting ugly right now. The Norwegian woman who just won for best animated short? Tracy was cracking on her hair something fierce. Good thing I took my allergy meds, because the fur is flying.

9:00 PM: Pan's Labyrinth is 2-for-2 in the early going. Can't wait to see that when it comes out on DVD. Oh, and the Jack Black/Will Ferrell thing? Excellent.

8:52 PM: Decent opening monologue by Ellen. I've always liked her. She's rarely hysterically funny, but she has a certain goofy, disarming quality that I find endearing.

8:37 PM: Tracy just pointed out that the audio seems really out-of-sync. That true for anyone else?

8:34 PM: Fuck. I just called a woman "dude". Goddamn it. Great intro, though.

8:23 PM: Anyone know why a movie about Idi Amin is titled The Last King Of Scotland? Yeah, I realize I could probably look up the answer. I'm lazy. Hook me up.

8:16 PM: Tracy on Eddie Murphy's girlfriend: "That dress is just fucking terrible. I bet she made it." (She's right, btw. It looks like an alien outfit from the original Star Trek.)

8:14 PM: Cameron Diaz's dress is kind of bizarre. The top of it looks like the way you'd see a napkin folded at a fancy wedding or something. But man, oh, man does it show off her ass. So I guess no complaints.

8:11 PM: (Note: Tracy has a couple of glasses of wine in her, so the cattiness is only going to go downhill from here...)

8:10 PM: Tracy: "Fucking Beyonce." Me: "What?" Tracy: "She only became famous because she was the pretty one. She's not the best singer or anything. She just looks good."

8:06 PM: Tracy: "Jennifer Hudson's dress is terrible. It looks like one the villain outfits from Flash Gordon... It's cool that she has pockets in it, though."

8:04 PM: Tracy: "Leonardo DiCaprio looks awesome in his tux. I actually see him as a man now after seeing him in The Aviator."

7:53 PM: Tracy: "Can you put in there 'Why can't Penelope Cruz speak English yet?'" (Why, yes, honey. I can. Rrrrraeewhh.)

7:52 PM: Tracy: "Meryl Streep is a amazing. She's so smart and so ballsy. Look at her. She didn't even do her hair. She doesn't care."

7:50 PM: I said this when I saw her at the People's Choice Awards last month, but it bears repeating: Reese Witherspoon looks way better with bangs. Way better.

7:40 PM: Kate Blanchette looks almost perfect in her shimmering silvery get up, but her hairstyle isn't doing it for me at all. Too bad, because everything else is smokin'.

7:39 PM: Tracy: "What the fuck is that on Nicole Kidman's shoulder? Is it a tumor?"

7:33 PM: Tracy: "Anne Hathaway looks too cute. I can't take her seriously, with her gigantic eyes and Precious Moments doll face."

7:29 PM: That was a study in contrasts right there. Kirsten Dunst comes in looking like a car wreck in this weird, green, semi-translucent mermaid get up, and then right behind her is Gwyneth Paltrow who was firing on all cylinders, wearing this beautiful dusty-rose-colored gown that looked astonishing with her hair and skin tone. And yes, this is still me writing. Tracy hasn't taken over the keyboard.

7:26 PM: Wow. Helen Mirren is a GILF(IIWM).

7:17 PM: I did not want to see Ryan Seacrest's underwear. Not even just a half inch.

7:16 PM: The only Oscar nominated movie we've seen this year is Little Miss Sunshine. Tried to queueue up a few more on Netflix, but we got behind, unfortunately. So I'll sort of be using these awards to preview the big films. Worked last year.

7:06 PM: I am by no means a fashion expert, but that doesn't stop me from holding strong opinions on the subject. (The list of subject areas which I have zero expertise in yet hold strong opinions about is astonishingly long. You think you know, but trust me, you don't.) Here's one of those opinions: "Empire waists" should be outlawed. Seriously, ladies, get with it. "Empire waist" is nothing but a code phrase for "maternity dress".

7:00 PM: BTW, the title of this post? It's the annoying fucking question that Ryan Seacrest is asking every single person as they walk in. Because it's so cool to ask who someone's wearing as opposed to what they're wearing. Also, E! has a pair of dress analysts who are going over certain attendees with a telestrator. Penelope Cruz just walked in wearing this terrible huge pink fru-fru dress. Dumb.

6:53 PM: Holy shit does Jodie Foster look smoking hot. Wow. I didn't even recognize her at first. Unbelievable haircut.

6:48 PM: I totally do not get that "What Happens in Vegas" commercial with the psychic who just keeps staring at the dude.

6:45 PM: People, I feel a compulsion to live blog the Oscars this year. Yes, I know, this is just a further descent into mindlessness, but that's OK. I seriously need a little mindlessness at the moment. So away we go. Tracy and I are watching the E! red carpet special at the moment. It's wicked exciting.

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[2007.02.25 - 05:30 P.M.]

OK, then. Bit of a headache ramping up now. At least I've progressed to the point where I can close my eyes without feeling like I'm falling off a cliff. Somewhat twitchy, though, so it's hard to type. (See? I wasn't kidding about that.) Oh, and my shins are killing me from all the walking around we did over the last two days.

Got back about half an hour ago. Tracy was kind enough to take the wheel for the three-hour return trip. Pondering the remainder of the day, I predict a great deal of nothing will be happening. Perfect night to zone out and watch the Oscars. Pics and stories and stuff later in the week, assuming I get the mental energy to focus on blogging.

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[2007.02.23 - 12:00 P.M.]

Tartfest is upon us! The stunt liver is safely packed in the overnight bag for the trip to the city. I am properly hydrated. The wife is prettified. We are go for launch. Wish me luck. I imagine I'll need some, for as my patron saint likes to say, "When it's time to party, we will always party hard."

Mike is meeting Tracy and me at 4:30 PM at a bar called "DBA" on First Avenue between 2nd and 3rd for some pre-TartFest practice beers. Probably head over to Tart's around 7:00 PM or so. For those who will be there, I look forward to meeting you. For those who won't, I'll be sure to hoist a pint or two for you.

Recap on Monday, assuming I'm sobered up enough to type.

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[2007.02.23 - 10:10 A.M.]

The Amazing Race: No update.

Rome: No update.

Battlestar Galactica: No update.

Heroes: Well, they sure did kick it back into high gear this week. With Peter having unlocked his powers and Syler continuing to augment his, it feels like everything's building up to a head. (Hopefully this doesn't mean the show's about to go on hiatus again.) The transformation of Peter's character was truly amazing to watch. In the stretch of an episode he went from being headstrong but mostly impotent to being The Man. Now I'm wondering if he's headed for the "In Danger of Being Overwhelmed by Ones Powers" phase of the prototypical superhero story arc. Based on the way he was smacking Isaac around, it's either that or he picked up some of Claude's bad attitude. Simone's death could be just the thing to send Peter temporarily to the dark side... I like Ando. Really do. But I'm happy to see Hiro kick him to the curb -- even if it's only temporary -- because that should free him up to focus on morphing into the super bad-ass Hiro we saw on the subway car. I can't wait to meet that dude for real. And btw: What exactly did Hiro do there when that chick tried to shoot them? At first I thought he just made time run backwards, but as a friend pointed out today, that wouldn't have made the gun blow up and throw her backwards... Hana is certainly intriguing, and not just because I envy anyone who can check and compose email using only their brain. But with each character they add there's always the threat that they're spreading themselves too thin... Claire finally confronts her dad. Will this lead to some elucidation of his character's status? So far, I've got him pegged as Lawful Neutral... And on a purely superficial note: Is it me, or is Parkman's wife getting homelier with each passing week?

House: Off this week.

Friday Night Lights: Jason Street is busting out, people. Quad rugby has given him a new lease on life, and it's a pleasure to watch. As Tracy said to me after this week's episode, no matter how things go for him in Dillon, he'll always be looked on with pity. But in his new life, hanging with the quadsters? He has a chance to be The Man again. And as we saw from his dalliance with the tattoo parlor chick, it's working out for him... And then we have QB1 and Julie, who were two steps from the boink before they backed off in an after-school special "Saving It" moment. Here's a question: They're two good kids who honestly like and care for each other. They had protection. Why not have sex? I mean, aside from the fact that Coach would have killed one of them and grounded the other for life? That whole thing just played right into the whole ridiculous sex-as-sacred, sex-as-dirty, sex-as-big-friggin'-deal mythology that so badly fucks up our culture's psyche. If there were ever two fictional teenagers who should have been given the green light to get it on, it's Matt and Julie.

Lost: "Although he walks among us, he is not one of us." That's what Jack's tattoo means, at least the part that's written in Thai (?) characters. As to what the other cool-looking stuff means, we're still in the dark. Another good episode here. Although I found the scene at the end where Jack gets his ass kicked by a gang of four Thai bad boys a bit cliched, the resolution of that bit of backstory nicely echoed the "tribal distrust of outsiders" theme we're seeing played out in real time on the island. And the bit the woman says to him about his true self being a leader, blah blah blah... Could they be setting Jack up to become the leader of the Others? That's the feeling I'm getting. They seem to be emphasizing the brittle, fearful nature of the Others' society, creating a void there that Jack could step into. Anyhow, just a thought. One final note: Not sure how I feel about this "Sherriff" woman who popped on the scene out of nowhere. Haven't we already met our Stern Hardass quota with this crew? I believe we have.

The Sarah Silverman Program: DVR delay.

Smallville: Off this week.

Supernatural: Off this week.

Survivor: At tribal council, when Jeff was seriously playing up the "What's wrong with you?" angle against Ravu, it made me a little nuts. I wanted so badly for one of the tribe members to stand up and say "Gee, Jeff, I can't imagine why we keep losing. Maybe it's because you set the other tribe up all pretty and nice while we're starving to death over in our shithole camp. You think maybe that has something to do with it?" Seriously. On the one hand, it's an interesting social experiment they've set up, and it certainly emphasizes, as Rocky said, the whole "rich get richer" dynamic. But Jeff (proxy for the show's producers, of course) can't then turn around and act all dumb about it. Anyhow... Hey, look! Two competitions that didn't involve puzzles! Awesome! The slip-and-slide thing looked like a ton of fun. The eating gross stuff competition? Not so much. Fucking pig snouts. That's right up there with the cow lips featured on Amazing Race last season in terms of brutal disgustingness. I've said it before: If I'm ever on Survivor, the first thing I'm telling my tribemates is "Hey, I can do any kind of crazy, hard-ass shit they put us up to, but I can't eat gross stuff. I'm not your guy." You know, just be up-front about it. Unlike Anthony, who stood there like a whiny little bitch claiming he could not swallow because he didn't have any spit. Please, dude. He should have gone home for that act, but instead nice, smart little Sylvia gets voted off. That just wasn't right. Favorite: Rocky. Least Favorite: Anthony.

The Office: Tartfest delay.

CSI: (2-15) I suppose it's wrong to be thrilled at the return of a serial killer, but let's face it, with Keppler gone, the return of the Miniatures Killer is exactly the shot in the arm this show needed. It's the best long-term story arc this show's had going since Nick got kidnapped and buried alive. The miniatures themselves are fascinating. Each time they feature one I'm like "Wait, could someone actually produce something that detailed by hand? Wouldn't they need incredibly advanced equipment?" And the way they depict the murders is just outstanding. This week's plot, of course, had that interesting twist where the cop ends up dying in place of the intended victim, but then the victim's brother (the mayor from Buffy!) uses the serial killer's plot as a cover for a mercy killing. Good stuff. (But wait: Would the carbon monoxide produced in a hearth be enough to kill someone? Seriously? I thought the reason people usually did the car-in-the-garage thing was that you needed to totally permeate the air with that shit.) Initially, my money was on Cake Thrower to be the killer. Any kid who throws their birthday cake on the ground has "serial killer" written all over them. But I was wrong. Apparently it's one of the million foster siblings he had. I can wait to find out which one, too. Let's keep this good thing going. (2-22) Tartfest delay.

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[2007.02.22 - 05:00 P.M.]

Slices on a Thursday? Oh yeah. Don't act like you don't know why either. You know why. I said you know why. But just in case you don't, I'll tell you:

TARTFEST IS TOMORROW!!! WOO HOO!!!

And Tracy and I have the day off! So our three-day weekend of partying to the point of irresponsibility? That starts right about now. Seriously: I'm bouncing off of the fucking walls at the moment. I haven't been this excited about a party in quite a while. Two nights of Bloggerz Gone Wild in New York City? Are you shitting me? I don't even have the words. Not that that will stop me from writing about it.

Only one problem presents itself: Pacing... Must. Work. On. Pacing...

(Slice Track: Kid Rock - Wastin' Time)

slices

How come spell checkers can't figure out that "that that" is a valid scenario for a repeated word? Really, folks. This is not a hard thing to code for.

(Slice Track: The Monkeys - I'm A Believer)

slices

OK, I know: War? Bad. Killing? Bad. Suffering? Bad. Military-Industrial complex? Bad.

And yet... Actual functioning ray gun? You have to admit that's just a little bit cool.

(Slice Track: Extreme - Mutha (Don't Wanna Go To School Today))

slices

Have I ever mentioned how much ass I kick at Scrabble? I'm sure I have, but just in case, I figure it warrants mentioning. "MrToast" is always ready to administer a beating if you're interested.

And no, I didn't intend for this to be Slices Of Toast: Man Of Few Words Edition. It's just working out that way.

(Slice Track: AC/DC - High Voltage)

slices

Angelos sent out a link to this page of captioned cat pictures last week. It is some funny, funny, funny fuckin' shit. Personal favorites include "I'm on your keyboard, watching you fap", "I'm in ur room, steeln ur drive", "Go cry, emo kid" and, of course, "Invisible sandwich". No, really, I've scrolled through these three times and they still bring tears to my eyes.

Oh, and the one with the two cats looking at each other, one kinda sidelong? Jesus Fucking H. Christ. I'd make that my desktop wallpaper but I'd never type a word again 'cause I'd be too busy peeing myself.

(Slice Track: Loverboy - Workin' For The Weekend)

slices

I know it's only Spring Training and all, and at this time of year pretty much everyone sees their team through rose-colored glasses, but hey, the Yanks rotation could be pretty fuckin' tight if a few things break right. I mean, Wang, Pettite, Moose, all solid. Igawa has some upside as a homeless man's Matsuzaka. Pavano could be healthy and poised for a comeback. And Phil Hughes? He is going to fuck some peoples' shit up sooner or later. Could be this year...

(Slice Track: John Fogerty - Centerfield)

slices

So Lieberman's making noise about how he might switch parties. I say go for it, Joe. Do it. Put that "R" after your name. Obviously, having control of the Senate right now doesn't mean much for the Dems, who can't even pass a fucking toothless, non-binding resolution. So take that plunge, Mr. Senator. I want you to join the GOP. Because when you do, it will be the final public confirmation of what a clueless piece of shit you've become. Everyone will know, once and for all, what a punk-ass bitch you are. No more hiding, no more pretense. The label, the scarlet "R", will be hanging around your neck, advertising to the world where you really stand.

So switch, motherfucker. Stop running your mouth and just do it. Or are you too much of a two-faced, cowardly douche to put your money where your mouth is?

(Slice Track: Howard Jones - Life In One Day)

Overheard at Casa de Toast:

Me: "What's that?"

Tracy: "The top from the anchovy tin."

Me: "Anchovy tin?"

Tracy: "Yeah, for the salad."

Me: "Oh. Well thanks for making that executive decision."

Tracy: "What do you mean?"

Me: "I don't like anchovies."

Tracy: "Caesar salad is supposed to have anchovies."

Me: "Oh. Excellent."

Tracy: "Yeah? Well you can just go watch Rome if you don't believe me."

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[2007.02.21 - 07:15 P.M.]

Toast does his best Hiro impression

I remember commenting, oh, a year or so ago, in a television thread somewhere, that I believed we were living in a New Golden Age of Television. The evidence was all around me. Show after great show I couldn't resist. I think it was last year, when Invasion and Surface came out (and were then cancelled, of course).

I stand by that assessment. These days, you can't swing a remote without hitting a great show. HBO seemed to set the bar half a decade ago, but since then so many others have followed. You've got Sci-Fi bringing BSG to the table, obviously, but how about the networks? Lost? Heroes? Tell me these are anything like the shows we suffered through ten years ago. Even more prosaic dramas like Friday Night Lights have taken huge steps forward in acting and writing. We're just living in different times.

Of course, while I've got plenty of television addicts like John Howard backing me in my television bliss, there's still people like Angelos who persist in rolling their eyes at the TV "wasteland" and watching nothing but crap sitcoms and Discovery Channel specials.

Well here comes an article in the most recent Newsweek making the exact same point I've been trying to push. It's worth a read.

Contrary to what you might think from my weekly TV posts, I'm not someone who's usually given to sitting in front of the box for hours on end. It just so happens that, at this moment in history there is so much Good Shit on it's crazy. You should appreciate it.

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[2007.02.21 - 05:25 P.M.]

Had to do a return run last night as the garage was overflowing with empties. Now I don't know about you, but when I dump a cartload of empties on a store, I feel morally obliged to buy something from them. So over to the cooler I strolled, and no sooner did I start browsing than I saw Lagunitas Brewing Company's Hairy Eyeball Ale. There's a name that gets your attention.

The Pour: This beer develops very little in the way of a head. Maybe a quarter inch or less of light tan foam that is gone inside ninety seconds, leaving the wispiest of films behind. I can see almost zero visible carbonation in the glass. The body is a very dark brown with hints of cherry. The aroma off the top of the glass is faint and vaguely malty. Not a ton of character for the nose to attach itself to.

Taste: The very first thing to present itself here is the alcohol flavor. It's strong and right up front, suggesting a barley wine. Next in order of intensity is the malt hit. In the main, I'm getting something that's typical for a brown ale here. There are hints of sherry and light milk chocolate rising up in there too, however, lending a sweetness that sits nicely on the tip of the tongue. The hops come in behind the malt initially, rounding out the flavor and providing a nice balance, and then take full control of the medium-length aftertaste. This beer has a fairly heavy body which, combined with the sweet malt flavors, walks things right up to the line of syrupiness, stopping just short. Oh, and did I mention the strong alcohol taste? The 9% ABV alcohol taste? It's right there through to the end.

Verdict: For a beer that's heavy, malty, high in alcohol and low in carbonation, this goes down way too smoothly. (He says as he opens a second one to confirm his tasting notes.) Seriously, if you're looking for a six pack to get you fucked up with minimal effort, grab some Hairy Eyeball.

Rating: 7.0

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[2007.02.21 - 04:45 P.M.]

Now I have to watch Dancing With The Stars.

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[2007.02.21 - 10:30 A.M.]

Last Thirteen:

I think this might be the most eclectic Poddery Barn I've done yet. Fun times.

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[2007.02.19 - 01:30 P.M.]

Heroes: Slow episode, by this show's standards. Claire's real mother contacts Nathan, who immediately assumes she wants to blackmail him so he offers her $100K. While delivering this, a spying Claire discovers her real father doesn't want her in his life. She then hurls a rock at his departing limo... Meanwhile, HRG's repeated use of the Cuban's memory-wiping ability on his wife has left her a basket case as her memory starts disintegrating all over the place... Parkman is pulling security guard duty now and is assigned to guard a guy that Jessica, now in control of Nicki, has taken on a contract to assassinate. During their encounter, Matt "hears" both Jessica and Nicki in Nicki's head and thinks they're two people. (Note: If you're thrown out a window and fall 6-8 feet flat onto your back on a metal scaffold, you are not getting up and walking away from it)... Hiro and Ando get roped into breaking into a dude's hotel room by a stripper who's up to no good. Ando then goes off with said stripper after she's locked Hiro in a walk-in freezer and lied about it to him. (Speed up this storyline dammit!)... The big development this week was Sylar offing some poor dude who had the ability to melt any object by touching it*, assuming his identity, and using this charade to trick Mohinder into letting him tag along as an assistant mutant finder. Not good times there. (*A kinda useless skill, no? But then, mutations aren't intelligently designed.)

House: Mildly interesting episode centering on a young girl with CIPA (Congenital Insensitivity to Pain). The drama centers on House's questionable desire to keep the girl hospitalized and do a spinal nerve biopsy which, his associates suspect, has more to do with his curiosity about her condition and the ramifications for his own pain problem than it does with any desire to cure her. As things progress, we see the needle finally move a little bit on the House-Cuddy romantic angle. They've been teasing us with this since day one but House's repeated and deliberate interruptions of Cuddy's blind date and the ensuing discussion thereof constitute the first real action in a while. I think this needs to happen, by the way. Cuddy's certainly hot enough for a woman her age, and that relationship would be a source of constant entertainment. Oh, yeah, the girl. She had a tapeworm which was causing a B-12 deficiency. Her CIPA made her blissfully unaware of this parasite (I didn't know tapeworms were supposed to be painful) and since it ran the full length of her intestine they couldn't detect it on their scans. The scene where House removed it was wicked gross, but in a cool way.

Friday Night Lights: OK, I was wrong and the writers were right: The race controversy actually made for a compelling show this past week. Nice buildup of tension there as Panther supporters, members of the coaching staff, and even his wife lean on Coach Taylor to fire Mac so that Smash and his striking players will come back in time for their playoff game. Coach refuses to sacrifice Mac, however, trusting his own judgement of the man's character. Just as the bus is readying to leave, Smash and his cohort, having considered the impractical and potentially career-ending nature of their quest, relent and rejoin the team. The game starts off well enough but then spins out of control as the fans get nasty, the opposing players get dirty, and the officials repeatedly look the other way. In the second half, a player hurls a racist taunt at Smash, who tries to walk away. The player keeps it up, though, until Riggins flies in and starts beating the shit out of him. A big brawl ensues, the game is called, and Dillon is granted the win. On the ride home some cops stop Dillon's bus and ask for Smash to be turned over on assault charges (patently ridiculous, but whatever). Mac stands up to them, demanding a warrant, and they leave. Back in Dillon, Mac takes Smash aside and admits to him that he made a mistake. All in all, some pretty damned good television. Oh, elsewhere, Julie, Tyra, Matt and Landry get busted at the strip joint where Tyra's sister works. This leads Julie's Mom to have a meltdown as she forbids her daughter from hanging out with Tyra anymore. Boilerplate plot line there. And btw, Matt? Landry's wrong: Nothing wrong with a mix CD.

Lost: Really good episode here (finally) as we are taken through Desmond's backstory. The scene is set after he has a premonition in the jungle that Claire is drowning and rushes to the beach to save her. Charlie and Hurley, determined to figure out what his deal is, decide to get him drunk. What is then revealed is anything but the standard Lost-style recap of each character's life. Instead, Desmond finds himself in a flashback/flashforward that begins when he turns the key in the hatch and is transported back to his apartment in England with his girlfriend. The story is supposed to go that the girlfriend's father is a douchebag who refuses to give Desmond his daughter's hand in marriage, so Desmond sets off on the sailing race around the world to prove himself, thus winding up on the island. As these events are unfolding, however, Desmond keeps flashing forward to his life on the island. This confusing juxtaposition causes him to second-guess himself and attempt to change his future by going against the father's wishes and buying an engagement ring. When he does so, the woman at the jewelry store - who seems to be some sort of all-knowing psychic/clairvoyant - gives him a lecture about destiny and the universe's ability to "course correct" when people go against their fate. Armed with this knowledge, Desmond later relents, tosses the ring in the river and allows destiny to have its way. This was one of the better episodes in terms of exploring the nature of the inexorable pull the island has had on the lives of its inhabitants. Also doesn't hurt that Desmond has taken over Locke's spot as the most interesting character on the show.

The Sarah Silverman Program: Great. Just what we need, another show on our plate. A couple of weeks ago Tracy and I set our DVR to record this. Neither of us were familiar with Silverman beyond her general reputation as being kind of "out there", but with Comedy central running non-stop ads during TDS and CR we were curious. This Saturday we finally got around to watching the first two episodes and holy shit is this show funny. The NyQuil-induced flying car sequence was my first hint that it might be a keeper. The Karate scene with Brian -- one half of a hysterical large gay couple -- literally had me in tears. In between, of course, there's the constant stream of Silverman's viciously biting snark and utterly random whimsical asides. I'd say over the course of these first two half-hour segments, I found myself with my mouth hanging open at least half a dozen times. Funny, funny shit.

Smallville: Lex is up to more of his usual meteor-freak-obsessive tricks again. The latest in a never-ending series of ethically-challenged doctors has, at Lex's behest, been tracking Kryptonite-infected individuals by capturing them and tagging them with subcutaneous transmitters. These people are identified with the help of a kid who was blinded in the last meteor strike but also gifted with the ability to "see" meteor freaks. The big development occurs when Clark and Chloe confront him and he seemingly identifies Chloe as being meteor-infected. Action and adventure ensue as Chloe is kidnapped and tagged. Clark, by stealing the evil doctor's laptop, unwittingly puts Chloe in danger as the doctor wigs out and begins to "shut down" the program by killing off all the subjects he's tagged. Clark saves her, of course, by using his heat vision to laser the tracking device out of her in an unusually excruciating scene. Although the day is saved, Chloe ends the episode in very un-Chloe-like fashion by breaking down in tears, rent with anxiety about her potentially meteor-infected status. In other developments, the blind kid tells Lana that Clark is "the most normal guy on the planet", seemingly throwing her off the scent in her quest to know his true nature. Hopefully this doesn't dissuade her for long, because if she doesn't figure things out by the end of this season I'm going to have to drive to Kansas and spell it out for her.

Supernatural: Ah, yes, the Comic Relief Episode. This was a lot of fun. Sam and Dean square off against a vengeful trickster demigod who's fucking with the denizens of a college campus. As they reconstruct events for one of their hunter friends, the two alternate in the telling of the story, frequently using the same-story/different-points-of-view device. So we get Dean's version of Sam, which paints him as a hyper-effeminate nagging mama's boy, and Sam's vision of Dean as a crude, clueless, shuffling golem. (The scene where Dean is stuffing his face with those little pastries was priceless.) Watching the episode unfold, we gradually found ourselves rooting for the trickster, who was homicidal but in a quasi-just and highly humorous fashion. The episode ends with Sam, Dean and their pal trapping the trickster in an auditorium and killing him. Except not actually so much. The final scene reveals that they only killed an illusion, leading to the possibility that we have a new recurring character on our hands. (Here's hoping.)

Survivor: Let's get the obligatory mini-rant out of the way first: Could the producers of this show PLEASE exercise just a modicum of creativity with the challenges. I literally cannot remember the last time we had a challenge that did not end with puzzle pieces. It's seriously annoying. There are so many things they could come up with to stretch the skills of these players, and instead it's the same old shit, week after week. Arrghh. Anyhow, the drama this week centers on Ravu tribe's decision on who to eliminate. Ravu is the tribe that's been forced to rough it while their competitors, Moto, live in luxury. At the immunity challenge, Ravu is seemingly right in things until Erica Of The Large 'Fro starts screeching orders and freaking out. Her tribemates see this bizarre behavior as a liability and so shift their vote to her and away from the architect, Sylvia, who was about to be eliminated for being "too bossy". Which brings me to another complaint: Season after season you see people who are competent and confident get tagged as "bossy" simply because they have the audacity to suggest doing things a certain way. What the fuck? Wouldn't you want someone like that on your tribe? I mean sometimes, like with Sarge a few seasons ago, you get someone who really is just a bossy, dick-swinging asshole. But Sylvia doesn't strike me that way at all. She seems like a perfectly reasonable person who you might want to listen to. Fuck Ravu if they vote her off this week. (You know they're going to tribal again this week. They're starving and they seem to have the balance of the doofuses between the two tribes.) Favorite: Sylvia -- Least Favorite: Anthony

The Office: Three stories here. First, Dwight finds a bat living in the ceiling at Dunder Mifflin. When it gets out, everyone in the office freaks. (What is it about bats, anyhow? They're just little flying mice.) Jim, of course, sees an opportunity to mess with Dwight, and in the funniest subplot of the episode leads Dwight to believe that he (Jim) has been bitten and is turning into a vampire. Some great moments there with Jim's overreactions to the garlic and the light and whatnot, and Dwight is such a convincing moron that his reaction is believable... Ryan takes Michael to his business class to give a talk. This does not go well. Taking heavy fire during the Q & A session for his befuddled defense of old-school business models, he storms out indignantly. Later, he punishes Ryan by moving his desk to a crappier part of the building where he'll be trapped with Kelly... Pam takes part in a show for her art class. Several visitors brutally critique her work, but then Michael comes by and lavishes praise upon her depiction of the Dunder Mifflin building, soothing her bruised ego and earning him a hug. And, of course, speaking of Pam... (sigh)... It looks like she's seriously back with Roy. Ack. I have nothing further to say about this development. Except that it sucks.

CSI: DVR Delay.

The Amazing Race: After thoroughly enjoying this show last season, Tracy and I are all in for Amazing Race's All-Star season. I only have one problem: What the fuck are David and Mary doing back? They're the two mental midgets from Kentucky who glommed onto 'Bama and the Cho Brothers last year and rode them way deeper into the race than they had any right to go. He's clueless, she's dumb and obnoxious, and they have no business whatsoever being in the All-Star edition of this show. (Phew. OK, glad I got that off my chest.) As to the other contestants: I've got mixed feelings about seeing Boston Rob and Ambuh. Rob absolutely infuriated me on Survivor, but I do have to admit the dude is very good at these shows. And I get to hear him say "Ambuh" for several weeks, which makes me chuckle. I'm thrilled to see the Barbies back, and they are my favorites going into this thing. Once again I'll have to defend them against the slings and arrows that Tracy and my mom aim their way. Kevin and Drew, the two bald dudes from New York, are quite the pair of eyesores. I like the retired cop and his wife. No strong feelings about anyone else yet. Last night saw John Vito and Jill eliminated, which made me happy since I would probably have gone nuts from listening to people call that guy "John Vito" every time they addressed him. Meanwhile, I was shocked that the Cueballs made it to the detour, as they chose the somewhat unconventional route of driving on a flat tire. I didn't think you could pull something like that off for very long, particularly off road. Favorite: Dustin & Kandice -- Least Favorite: David & Mary.

Rome: (2-11 & 2-18) All caught up on Rome. Man is that show kicking ass right now. Last week Atia convinced Octavian to reconcile with Mark Antony and join forces against Brutus, who had been summoned by Cicero to return to Rome. Cicero did this, of course, on the assumption that Octavian and Antony would still be at each others' throats when Brutus arrived, not taking into account their shared interest in defeating Brutus and (I assume) avenging Caesar. The scene where Octavian smacks down Cicero on the Senate floor was awesome, only outdone for emotional impact by the scene where Octavian and Antony embrace at the latter's camp (I thought my heart was going to jump out of my chest at that). This week, Octavian and Antony's combined forces meet Brutus' army in Greece and deliver an ass-kicking, culminating in Brutus committing suicide-by-centurion as he strips off his armor and wades alone into his adversaries' victorious forces. As he falls to the ground amidst a flurry of stabbing swords, I nodded gravely and thought "See? Doesn't feel so good, does it?"... Prior to the epic battle -- was I the only one wondering how the hell the fighters could tell each other apart? -- Octavian and Anthony had hatched a plan to have Vorenus assign the various factions of the Aventine to kill a hundred or so of the city's most prominent citizens, starting with Cicero. The scene where Pullo visits Cicero in his yard, and politely waits for Cicero to ready himself for the killing blow was both powerful and bizarre, and the manner of execution was astonishingly graphic. I was actually shaken up a bit by that... A handful of lesser storylines moved on. Vorenus' eldest daughter still hates his guts. The two Jewish guys seem to be plotting I'm not sure what. (With the accelerated pace they're moving the show at, do we really need this additional subplot?) Pullo is pondering his dearth of career options in a peaceful society. And in the first example of a healthy relationship we've seen on this show, Agrippa bears his soul to Octavia and the two love birds get it on.

Battlestar Galactica: Mixed bag this week. I liked the look they gave us at Adama's failed marriage, but I thought the device they used to accomplish it -- the old wife-in-the-mind trick -- was a little clumsy. Nevertheless, anything that brings the admiral and his son closer together is good in my book, and if the senior Adama's seeming epiphany also leads him into the warm and sexy embrace of president Roslin, well, that's just gravy. 'Cause I don't know if I've mentioned this, but that is one damned smart and attractive older woman, and she's clearly got a thing for the old man... My feelings about this episode's other plotline are way less ambivalent. It was stupid. First off, what are the odds that there would be absolutely no way to open those blast doors from the inside and free Chief and Cali? Second, the eventual solution they land on -- blowing the external hatch and having a raptor crew "catch" them as they fly out -- defied belief. I read a science fiction book called Outland a long time ago, and in it the author describes what would happen to a human body if it were even momentarily exposed to zero pressure and near-absolute-zero temperatures. Suffice to say the results would be worse than a headache and a case of the chills. Yes, I know both "sources" here are science fiction, but everything I understand about pressure, temperature, and biology leads me to believe that exposure to the vacuum of space for even a split second would be a death sentence... Not a lot else going on in this episode. We are told that it's been 49 days since the fleet's last contact with the Cylons. They're still trying to figure out how to try Baltar. So, slow going.

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[2007.02.18 - 06:15 P.M.]

Ghost Rider: This movie was a ton of fun. I've been jonesing to see it for about a month now (the ads were in extra-heavy rotation during the NFL playoffs) and I was not disappointed. Now, not being a comic nerd -- hell, I didn't even know this was based on a comic until Tracy mentioned it to me a while back -- I can't say whether the movie was true to its source material. What I can say is that Nicholas Cage seemed perfect for the role of Johnny Blaze and looked like he was having a hell of a good time playing it. And who can blame him? Riding around on the world's most badass Chopper with a skull for a head and leaving a trail of flames and fucked-up bad guys everywhere you go? Who wouldn't sign up for that? Peter Fonda does a very good turn as Mephistopheles, and Wes Bentley kicks a bunch of butt as his evil(er) son, Blackheart. Sam Elliott plays the same Elder Tough Guy character he plays in every movie he's ever been in, and while he's as dependable as ever in the role I wish they'd done a little more with him. Seriously, though, no real complaints here. Yeah, there were plenty of silly action film cliches (the little speech Johnny gives at the end is corn. ball. city.) and the plot was wading-pool deep, but this was still a very entertaining way to spend a couple of hours. (Oh, one final note: Nicholas Cage is fucking ripped. Dude has one shirtless scene where he is rocking the six-pack and the guns and everything. I always figured him to be a scrawny dude. I was mistaken.) Expected: 6.5 -- Actual 7.0

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[2007.02.18 - 10:15 A.M.]

Swiss Meat & Sausage Co. Hickory Smoked Honey Bacon: This month's BoTMC entry is freakishly tasty. It arrived as a big old hunk that I couldn't even tell was sliced at first. This morning, Tracy fried it up and then smacked it down using her new bacon press (which she is very proud of). There is amazing texture here. The meat is nice and chewy without being too jerky-like. Indeed, this bacon teases you, protesting just a little as your teeth grab and twist it, but then, an instant later, it demurs. And Jesus is the flavor of that demurral something. The honey taste is strong but the real beauty is the undercarriage of fat that all the flavors ride on. It's like a sheath of fat flavor coats even the meatiest parts. No, it's like they added extra fat molecules to this treat. Special, taste-bud-targeting Smart Fat that aggressively goes after you, instantly making you its bitch. Only then, once you've succumbed, does the meaty flavory goodness come to the fore, and oh it is a wonderful thing. I'm going to give this bacon 4.9 pigs out of 5.0, but the only reason I'm leaving that .1 on the table is because, like a jaded figure-skating judge, I have to allow for the possibility that there is a better bacon out there. Truth be told, however, I doubt it.

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[2007.02.18 - 09:45 A.M.]

Kevin Drum has a post this morning about how the right wing is gearing up to "swift boat" Hillary Clinton. Now, I have no doubt that the winger scum will be particularly vicious in their attacks on Hillary. But here's an odd thing: I'm finding myself a little bothered by the way "swift boating" has been accepted into the lexicon as shorthand for any old brazen campaign smear tactics.

I don't think people really appreciate just how singularly awful the Swift Boat Liars were. John Kerry, for all his manifold failures as a candidate, had one thing in his resume that was indisputably Great: He took bullets for his country. He served in a war and he did so with bravery and distinction. That is the sort of thing that you just don't fuck with. You just do not disparage a man's military service. When the Swift Boat Liars went after Kerry, it was like part of our nation's soul just died. Claiming he faked his injuries and didn't deserve his medals? That was blasphemy. There's a special circle in that non-existent place called Hell for people who did and said what they did and said.

Hey, I can't stand John McCain. I think he's a phony and a loser and it sickens me the way that pandering piece of shit is still treated as the Soul of Authenticity by the media. But on my worst day, in my greatest hour of political desperation, I would never, ever attack McCain's service in Vietnam. Not if my candidate were one vote from the White House and doing so would swing that vote our way. Never. You just don't fucking do that.

See, the right can smear Hillary Clinton all they want. They can dredge up all the old shit about how she had Vince Foster murdered, how she helped Big Dog run his Mena drug-running operation, and how she's secretly a lesbian. They can drag her through the mud and shit and slime from here to Tuesday. But they can't "Swift Boat" her. There's simply nothing in her resume that rises to the level that, if you trashed it, you would be sinking to the level of the Swift Boat Liars.

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[2007.02.17 - 07:00 P.M.]

I've been meaning to post a link to this hilarious riff on the Mac/PC ad campaign that Fridge dug up. I laughed for five solid minutes when I first saw it. Printed it out, posted it in my cubicle. Still cracks my shit up anew every time I glance at it. Of course, you've got to be at least a little bit of a computer geek to get the full impact of the joke.

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[2007.02.17 - 06:30 P.M.]

Driving to the supermarket just now, I heard a story on NPR about efforts to create a government-run reinsurance program for catastrophe coverage. Good idea, I think, but that's not what this post is about. No.

See, the host was talking to some dude from down south -- Louisiana, I think, although I could just be filling that in because it's obvious -- and he kept pronouncing the word "insurance" with the emphasis on the first syllable. "INsurance...INsurance...INsurance..." Then, when he was done talking, the host started doing it too. (Not surprising, I suppose, since NPR hosts are among the worst English speakers on the planet when it comes to annoying pronunciations.)

People: The word is pronounced "in-SUR-ance". OK? Please trust me on this. I work in the in-SUR-ance industry. I know whereof I speak. And howof too.

This emphasis on the first syllable thing drives me apeshit. Texans are particularly grating in this regard. I once spent two months travelling the west coast with a woman from Lubbock. Know where the trip started? SEE-attle. Ohmyfuckinflyinspaghettimonster did she drive me insane with that. SEE-attle, SEE-attle. I wanted so badly to grab her and shake her and shout NO, dipshit, it's Se-ATT-le! But I didn't, because she was old and had Parkinson's disease and I was being paid to be helpful to her. Not that correcting her pronunciation wouldn't have been helpful in some sense, but the accompanied grabbing and shaking would probably have gotten me fired.

Coming back to NPR people though. They're the fucking worst. God, I wish I had made a list over the years of all the cringe-inducing crap they do. Here's a big one: They love to pronounce words like "divisive" the hoity-toity British way, with a soft "i". Di-VISS-ive. Ack. I want to pop an aneurysm just typing it. It's duh-VICE-ive you pretentious twits. Oh, and of course there's the first word I ever heard NPR wreck, way back during the Clarence Thomas hearings: Harrassment. Oh, huh-RASS-ment, how I miss you. Alas, NPR stuck the knife in you and the rest of the media lined up behind them and now we're stuck with HAR-ussment. What the fuck is HAR-ussment? Anyone you know ever been HAR-ussed? No! Fuck no. But I know people who have been huh-RASSED.

(Man, I get worked up about this. Tracy just rolled over and was like "Wow, you are into whatever it is you're typing about!")

So there's the Question of the Week, readers: What pronunciations drive you up the wall?

Have at it. I just hope this topic isn't too di-VISS-ive...

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[2007.02.17 - 12:15 P.M.]

OK, so I know I'm a horrible, intolerant jerk and all, but I thought this pair of helpful flowcharts outlining the processes of science and faith was pretty damned funny. Like, print-out-and-put-on-the-fridge funny. (Hat tip: Jim Downey at UTI.)

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[2007.02.16 - 05:45 P.M.]

A glass of whiskey, a dirty old keyboard hooked up to the toaster, and one leg in the cranky pants. Sounds like it is time. Let's go then.

I get various items from Slate delivered to my Inbox, one of which is their daily political cartoon. I should probably discontinue this item as I've found that their selections are about twice as likely to give me a migraine as they are to make me laugh. Take today's brilliant entry. Hillary Clinton, her top facing in the other direction from her bottom, getting a diagnosis from her doctor of "flip-flop" itis. HA HA HA HA HA!!! Wow, a Democratic presidential candidate getting made fun of for flip-flopping. That's a fucking hoot right there. Totally original.

I'm no Hillary fan, OK, but just give me a goddamned break. Why is it that, election cycle after election cycle, wingers and their media flacks can trot out this "flip-flop" shit to pin on whatever Democrat is running and nobody in the press calls them on the stale hypocrisy of it? Ohmygod, Hillary's opinions on the Iraq war have changed over time! How scandalous! It's almost like she's a normal human being, one of the 150 million or so Americans who (wrongly) started out supporting this fucking monstrous mistake and now (belatedly) are starting to realize the error of their ways. (And in Hillary's case, not even really so much - She's more an Iraq War nitpicker than a true apostate.) But, hey, what the hell: She's a Democrat and her opinion on something is not exactly the same as it was previously, so let's all start screeching "FLIP-FLOPPER!" as loudly as we possibly can, because that's what the script says to do.

The guy in the White House, of course, never changes his opinions. Except when he is forced to (he was against court oversight of his NSA wiretapping program before he was for it) or when it's politically expedient (he was for manual election recounts before he was against them).

Real people sometimes change their opinions with time, media morons. Grow up.

(Slice Track: Like A Stone - Audioslave)

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Have you ever wanted to see a bleeding Carlos Mencia dropped into a shark tank? If so, check out this awesome video of comedian Joe Rogan tearing him a new asshole. I used to think of Mencia as that annoyingly un-funny dude that Comedy Central was perpetually running ads for. Now I think of him as that annoyingly un-funny dude who made up his entire friggin' persona and steals all his material from other comedians. (Hat tip: Angelos)

(Slice Track: Rock On - David Essex)

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Joe Lieberman momentarily took his mouth off George Bush's cock today to inform us that the Senate's non-binding resolution against Bush's escalation of the Iraq War is the first step towards a "constitutional crisis". Yeah, he really said that. About a non-binding resolution. How the hell has this guy stayed married for so long? Seriously, you'd think that the first time Hadassah asked him to get his feet off the coffee table he'd be filing for divorce on grounds of "irreconcilable differences".

"Constitutional Crisis"? Fuck you, Joe.

We've had several "Constitutional Crises" over the past six and a half years. The biggest was in November and December of 2000, when Bush was appointed president by a nakedly partisan Supreme Court. That was a Constitutional Crisis, and if I recall correctly all you did was sit behind the interview desk at FOX News and spout mealy-mouthed bullshit about unity and harmony and the all-important goal of not getting, like, upset or anything about the highest office in the land being stolen. So fuck you and your Constitutional Crisis.

It's a pathetic shame that the most the Senate can muster against Bush's insane plan to escalate a war most Americans want ended is a toothless, non-binding resolution.

(Slice Track: Everyday Glory - Rush)

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Tim Hardaway:

"Well, you know, I hate gay people. I let it be known I don't like gay people. I don't like to be around gay people. I'm homophobic. It shouldn't be in the world, in the United States, I don't like it."

Tim Hardaway, later that same day:

"I want to apologize for my comments regarding gays. My comments were offensive and I regret making them. I'm sorry to anyone I have offended."

Dude, somehow I think a simple "Oops, My Bad" isn't going to cut it here.

And by the way, Timmy? In case you happen to ever stumble across my site? I hate people who hate gay people. I let it be known I don't like people who don't like gay people. I don't like to be around people who don't like gay people. I'm homophobephobic. So go the fuck away you washed-up jackass.

(Slice Track: The Razor's Edge - AC/DC)

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[2007.02.14 - 06:30 P.M.]

Five Years of Tracy's kisses grace the walls
at our little Italian restaurant in NYC

With apologies to Fridge and Mike and a bemused smirk in kate's direction, I'd like to wish you all a happy Valentine's Day. I'd like to think that all of you are out there staring deeply into the eyes of a lover, allowing yourself to be swept away by that pure, idealistic, and often utterly impractical feeling that is romantic love. But I know that's not always either practical or desirable, so I'll just say I hope you're happy and somehow satisfied with the state of your partnership. Or if not that, at least cynical and pissed off in a constructive way.

Oh, I give up. Fuck all y'all. I'm happy and that's what's important, am I right?

See, I smoked another Valentine's Day. Got Tracy a dozen roses with extra baby's breath (arranged them myself), a big box of Lindor truffles (all white chocolate - her favorite), and a piece of art/prose which I had custom matted and framed to match the wood in our bedroom set. And a great card. Always a great card.

Yeah, so this holiday is sponsored by Hallmark. So what? I like buying cards for my wife. Always an interesting challenge. Hmmm...

"Through our many years together-"

Nope.

"I know we've had our ups and downs, and our life together has often been difficult-"

Um, not really.

"I may not often express my feelings-"

HA HA HA HA HA!!!

No, no, no. Every year I have to wade through the countless cards that seem to be marketed towards doofus guys who don't appreciate their wives/girlfriends and, frankly, I kind of enjoy it, because when I find the perfect one I invariably start to tear up a bit as I realize just how incredibly fucking lucky I am. So, Hon, here's a ToastMark™ greeting for you:

"My life is wonderful, and it's all your fault."

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[2007.02.14 - 03:30 P.M.]

Last Thirteen:

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[2007.02.14 - 02:22 P.M.]

I have always found the sound of cancellations being read on the local radio station almost hypnotically calming.

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[2007.02.12 - 08:45 P.M.]

Heroes: OK, I will be annoyed if this two-week fling with Hiro's dad turns out to be nothing more than an excuse to give George Takei a cameo. Time to move Hiro's story along. The show suffers a bit when he's not at least somewhat central to the action... The Peter & Invisible Guy thread is, on the other hand, developing rather nicely. The manner in which it was revealed that Peter can, in fact, summon the powers he's learned from others when they're not around was quite entertaining... So I guess it's pretty much confirmed that, in addition to being the Memory Wiper, our Jamaican friend is also the Power Suppressor. How else to explain why Syler didn't just off him, HRG, and Claire? I mean with the full-on telekinesis, an unfettered Sylar is basically God now... Speaking of Claire, props to Tracy for picking out Nathan as her dad. Yeah, the GQ shirt sleeve gave him away somewhat, but still... Interesting development with Jessica "imprisoning" Nicki after being freed from the nut house. Still no clue where they're going with her character.

House: Forget the annoying story about the Gypsie kid whose family invaded the hospital after he swallowed a toothpick (an unusually stupid story, made worse by unusually grating guest characters). Let's focus on House's quest to retain his parking spot. Was he not right that it is, in fact, easier to traverse a long distance across a snow and ice covered parking lot in a motorized wheelchair than it is with a bum leg and a cane? Of course he was right, and it was silly of Cutty to pretend otherwise. In the end, I believe it was the recognition of that fact that led her to back off and restore House to his rightful place in the lot. (Of course, had she not relented, House could have asked Dr. Cameron to meet him at his car each morning and walk in front of him to the entrance so as to melt the ice...)

Friday Night Lights: Ah, the race issue. You knew it had to come up sooner or later, and it exploded this week when Coach Taylor's assistant made some old but familiar generalizations about black players (more athletic - running back material) versus white players (more brainy - quarterback material). As the episode progresses, this has the effect of radicalizing Smash -- who initially doesn't seem to give a shit -- into taking on the role of Black Pride Ringleader. I'm not sure how I feel about this. On the one hand it seems like the sort of tired, off-the-shelf storyline that could get tedious in a hurry. On the other hand... actually, I'm not sure there is an "on the other hand". I wish they'd just had the doofus coach apologize or had Taylor fire him and move on. Oh well, at least there was the Powder Puff football game to give us some levity and break up the tension. The best scene of the movie was when Coach Taylor learned that Saracen had pressed Julie into service as his team's QB, leading to his impromptu training camp outside their house. Talk about a classic father-son... er... father-daughter bonding scene. Good stuff.

Lost: So Lost is finally back, but rather than being ecstatic, I'm actually somewhat ambivalent about it. I'm tired of the Others for one thing. They're obviously not the south Pacific's most likeable crew and they're not terribly interesting in an evil way either, although the development wherein we learn that the blond woman is being held there against her will was at least mildly intriguing. I'm hoping that, with Sawyer and Kate returning to the main island, we can finally catch up with the rest of the regulars, who we haven't seen in approximately forever. (Was it last season?) Last week, Rob Salkowitz declared he was punting on Lost. I'm not there yet, but if they don't get their shit together and get this story moving someplace real soon, I might not be far behind, because they really are stagnating. Enough with the Others, let's have some other-worldliness. Or, as Tart said this weekend when the show came up, "Polar bears. I want polar bears."

Smallville: Closer and closer Lana comes to figuring out Clark's secret. This week's episode, wherein she is stalked by one of Lex's security staff and rescued at the last minute by our blue-eyed Barn Boy, merely advanced her another step towards the truth. "Huh, so, like, Lex stabbed Clark with this chisel, and it's all, like, bent... And then Clark appears out of nowhere to catch me as I'm falling forty feet through a skylight... Hmmm, I wonder if something's up with him?" Thing is, I want Lana to finally be in on Clark's secret just so we can resolve that five-season-long bit of tension, but I don't want them to get back together because, frankly, she's lame... Meanwhile, Chloe, who is decidedly notlame, appears to be reconciling with Jimmy O, who I have done a complete 180 on and now find absolutely charming. (Yeah, I know, go figure.)

Supernatural: Solid episode. They had both Tracy and I going for the first half hour or so, thinking maybe Sam really had gone Dark Side. Instead, it turns out he was possessed by the same demon who they had vanquished from the cute little blonde chick that played a pivotal role in the previous season's story arc. The single most interesting aspect of this week's developments was Dean's utter refusal to consider putting Sam down even when he's going around wasting other hunters and threatening to kill their friends and allies. You know this is going to be central to the plot at some point down the road.

Survivor: That has to be one of the more innovative ways that Survivor has started a season. Keep everyone together for the first two days while having them work on a dream camp, then split them into tribes and deprive the tribe that loses the first challenge of everything they helped to build. Should produce an interesting dynamic. My money's on the tribe that has to tough it out. OK, next up, a quick comment on the composition of the cast: What's up with the almost exclusively minority tilt here? I mean, there's not a blonde person of the show of either gender, and I think there are a total of four caucasians out of nineteen people. A little overboard, no, producers? Finally, can't say too much about the individual participants yet. The only outright obnoxious guy is Dreamz, and he's not so much a dick as an annoying loudmouth. Rocky strikes me as dangerously dumb, so we'll have to see how that plays out. The architect woman who was banished to Exile Island after assembling the tribes seems pretty strong. Sum Old Gai strikes me as OK, but the wise elder thing never seems to play out past a half dozen episodes. Anyhow, I'm just happy to see the best reality show on television make yet another triumphant return.

The Office: There's a fine line that the writers in this show need to be careful with and it has to do with Michael's character. Specifially, they can only push his obnoxiousness so far before it stops being hilarious and starts being preposterous. Usually, they seem to know just what they're doing, but at Phyllis' wedding, they took him too far. His speech was like nails on a blackboard, and the whole thing with him getting exiled just fell flat for me. In fact, not a real funny episode all around. The bit about how Phyllis had basically used all the decorations and ideas that Pam had had for her wedding was mildly amusing, and Kevin's Police cover band ("Scrantonicity") was good for a laugh or two, but that's all. The biggest downer was Pam leaving with her ex-fiance. 'Cause here's the thing: I will be seriously bummed out if they start doing the Alternate Availability Dance with her and Jim. That shit's tired and annoying.

CSI: So endeth the short CSI career of Mike Keppler. Now that was a strong episode right there. Keppler's ex-wife's (girlfriend's?) dad shows up, murders a fellow colleague of both of theirs as part of a continuing cover-up of a murder Keppler committed. The victim of that crime was a drug dealer who supposedly raped the two mens' wife(girlfriend?)/daughter, only it turns out not so much. Nope, he was a fall guy that the father had Keppler murder after he raped his daughter and she killed herself. Good, good stuff. Too bad Keppler will no longer be with us, as he was certainly one of the more colorful characters to grace the show. On the other hand, Gil's back, and it looks like the mystery of the miniatures killer will resume shortly.

Rome: (2-04) Whoa! We have a major problem here: If you're going to pull the "fast forward" routine, fine, and if you feel the need to actually switch actors in your portrayal of a central character in the service of that choice, again fine, but for Zeus' sake could you pick someone who looks at least a little bit like the previous actor? Really, when they first cut to Octavius' camp, Tracy and I were like "Who the hell is... no, seriously?" Very jarring. Regarless of who's playing the role, Octavian's army has whupped up on Mark Antony's forces and they are now planning a triumphant (if ill-advised?) return to Rome... Elsewhere, Vorenus took his leave of Mark Antony and travelled with Titus Pollo to the slave camp where his children were being held. Bad things then happened to the guy running the place. Good things, on the other hand, happened for his wife's out-of-wedlock kid, who Vorenus spared. But bad things had, of course, already happened to the rest of his girls, one of whom had become a 'Ho... Finally, we come to Atia's long-awaited vengeance over Servilia. As bloody as it was, can't say I felt bad. I fucking loathe Servilia, and hey, if you swear a blood oath to destroy someone's family, you best be ready for payback when it comes.

Battlestar Galactica: Tense episode right there. Classic example of BSG's ability to go dark, claustrophobic and paranoid. Now, unlike some people sitting on the couch here at Casa de Toast, I knew Helo was onto something right from the beginning with his suspicions about the evil anti-Saggitarian racist Dr. Robert. Oh, yes, Commander Adama may have owed Captain Agathon an apology, but I did not. I feel I have come to know Carl, and I trust his moral compass. (Trying to fill up space because not much else went on in this episode.) Oh, wait! Baltar-Who-Is-In-Six's-Head showed up for the first time in ages. I had almost completely forgotten about that interesting parallel projection issue that Six had going on. Looking forward to seeing what they do with that.

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[2007.02.12 - 04:00 P.M.]

New York was excellent. It was also expensive. And exhausting. I was going to write up one of my long-winded travel/adventure posts, but frankly I don't have it in me at the moment. What I do have in me is a strong desire to go crash on the couch and watch the shows that have piled up on DVR over the weekend. I will have some NYC pics up later in the week.

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[2007.02.09 - 05:00 P.M.]

Friday night before a three-day weekend in NYC. Can I get a Yabba Dabba Doo, people? Oh yes, give it to me, for it is party time in the Toast Household. A glass of wine, some fine cheese, kickin' the iTunes shuffle and chillin'. Tracy is across the office researching the restaurant options Paul sent our way for tomorrow evening. I believe we've narrowed it down to Les Halles or the Buddha Bar. Meanwhile, the toaster is warmed up and ready to go.

(Slice Track: Limbomaniacs - Freestyle)

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Here's a question: What's so white about mayonnaise? No, I don't mean the color, I mean "white" in the cultural sense. A few days ago, Tracy told me a story about a Jewish co-worker of hers from way back in the day who asked her what she put on her sandwiches. When she replied "mayonnaise" he said "You're so white." Now, I thought maybe that was just one guy with a weird opinion, but a few minutes ago I'm listening to Weird Al's White And Nerdy and there's a line where he says "I order all of my sandwiches with mayonnaise" as if that's some badge of whiteness (i.e. blandness). I don't get this at all. Mayonnaise kicks ass. It's tasty as hell, all that glorious fat. A lick-the-knife sandwich spread if ever there was one. So why the implication that the cool crowd shuns it? What do they use, mustard? Spare me.

(Slice Track: ELO - Don't Bring Me Down)

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Noted from earlier in the week, Chris Matthews commenting on the Imus show:

"[I'm] so sick of Southern guys with ranches running this country. I want a guy to run for President who doesn't have a fucking -- I'm sorry, a ranch."

Now, with apologies to my Southern readers, I, too, am a little sick of Southern guys -- or should I say "Southern" guys -- running the country. It irks me no end that being from the South and/or being perceived as culturally Southern is considered to be proof of one's Rugged, Manly Man, Alpha-Dog bona-fides whereas being from the north (OK, the northeast) makes you an effete, unelectable, wussie-ass twit. So yeah, I'm feeling what Matthews is saying.

But here's the deal: Isn't Chris Matthews the same guy who, for six fucking years, more or less, has been slurping on Bush's dick, absolutely in thrall to his whole Cowboy act? Has Matthews' drool production not increased in direct proportion to how far Bush holds his arms out from his sides when he walks? Hasn't he gushed repeatedly about how "strong" and "resolute" and "plain spoken" Bush is? So what's with this sudden turn? Bush's phony "ranch" is part and parcel of the whole phony tough guy routine. Why would Matthews suddenly find it objectionable?

(Slice Track: Nazareth - Hair of the Dog - Yes, that's ironic, I know.)

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Have to say, one of the best long-term side-effects of my trip to Ireland? I finally came to appreciate the Pogues.

[T]he words that he spoke seemed the wisest of philosophies
There's nothing ever gained by a wet thing called a tear
When the world is too dark, and I need the light inside of me
I'll walk into a bar and drink fifteen pints of beer

I am going, I am going, any which way the wind may be blowing
I am going, I am going, where streams of whiskey are flowing

Yes indeed, sir. That is where I am going as well.

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Valentine's Day got you down? Drop by Kate's place and help her deconstruct love and marriage. Kate recently finished Against Love by Laura Kipnis, and this, combined with the impending Cupid Fest, has spurred her to bang out another post in her ongoing series "Kate's Contrarian Posts about Romance™". Always a bracing read, even if you're a hopeless romantic like myself.

(Slice Track: Natasha Bedingfield - Unwritten)

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[2007.02.08 - 07:00 P.M.]

This weekend, Tracy and I are headed down to New York City for a two-night stay. Mere weeks into our relationship we began this tradition of going to NYC for Valentine's Day. We always eat at the same restaurant (Teodora's - a beautiful little Italian place Paul referred us to), and we always walk the Brooklyn Bridge, even if it's freezing out like it was our first time there together. The first couple of years we just went down for a day trip. Last year, however, we got a hotel for a night (and ended up having to drive out of Manhattan the next morning during the biggest blizzard in NYC history). This year, we decided to stay two nights so that we could actually wake up in the city and have an entire day there. It is going to be fucking fabulous.

Of course, two weeks later we'll be heading right back down to the big apple for TartFest. (Yay! It's almost here! Yay!) Not only will we be hanging out in Brooklyn and Manhattan with a whole bunch of our favorite online friends, but check this out: My cousin Kristin (yes, she of the Irish wedding) and her husband are going out of town that weekend and they're letting Tracy and I stay in their apartment. That's right, for two nights we will have an apartment in the city. We are tweaking straight out of our heads over the coolness of this fact.

Where am I going with this? Well, I share this excitement as a preamble to the following assertion: New York City is the coolest damned city on the planet. And I say that never having been to London or Paris or Rome or Hong Kong or Tokyo. Those cities are on our "must visit" list, so they'll all have the opportunity to prove me wrong, but until that happens, NYC is the king of cities.

Yes, I know, I have waxed poetic on these pages about New York City before. I'll try not to belabor the point. I simply find the place electric is all I'm saying. Just being there, wandering about and soaking it in, makes me feel more alive. The cacophony of sounds, the crowds on every sidewalk, the canyon walls of skyscrapers stretching on into infinity, the subway maze, a bajillion restaurants and bars, each more tempting than the next, the museums, hundreds of funky neighborhoods and districts and sub-sections, each with their own personality but each also blending into the singular greatness of the place... (deep breath)

Tell me there's anyplace better. Come on, tell me.

No, I mean seriously, tell me. It's the Question of The Week: What's your favorite city?

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[2007.02.08 - 06:30 P.M.]

Last weekend Fridge tipped me off to Google Analytics, a very cool website tracking tool suite. Like all things Google, it is free. All you have to do is set up an account, paste a snippet of code at the bottom of whatever page you want to keep track of, and away you go.

At left is a map showing where my North American visitors have surfed to the site from. (I include the continental qualifier because, over the last week, TwoGlasses has been visited by folks from six of the Earth's seven continents! If I can just get a hit from some lonely soul hanging out in an Antarctic outpost, I'll have collected a complete set!) The dots are scaled by frequency of page views, illustrating the odd fact that Angelos (giant circle in upstate New York) actually appears to check my site more often than I do (second biggest circle, centered over Connecticut). My only complaint about this feature is that when you zoom in on the map the circles enlarge too, so it's hard to distinguish between locations when there are a ton of 'em in one area. But I figure they'll address this shortcoming in a future release.

You can view reports for all the usual stuff: Visits (unique, new vs. returning), page views, referrers, network locations, keyword hits, etc. In addition, you can find out what browsers and versions your readers use (60% of you use Firefox, 35% IE, and around 5% use Safari), what operating systems they're on (80% Windows, 16% Mac, 2% Linux), what connection speeds they use (I have no dial-up readers) and even what screen resolutions they're viewing you with (43% of you use good old 1024 x 768, but then you've got the Howards, with John, I assume, at an enormous 1680 x 1050 and Chris on his geek phone at 240 x 320).

Anyhow, I don't know about you, but I find this stuff absolutely addicting. Way to go, Google. Way to go.

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[2007.02.07 - 01:15 P.M.]

Last night I was given cause, once again, to wonder at the minor toxic miracle that occurs whenever I eat asparagus. "Hmmmmm," thought I, "Might there be an explanation for this phenomenon online?"

Voila:

WHY DOES YOUR PEE SMELL WHEN YOU EAT ASPARAGUS? Asparagus contains a sulfur compound called mercaptan. It is also found in onions, garlic, rotten eggs, and in the secretions of skunks. The signature smell occurs when this substance is broken down in your digestive system. Not all people have the gene for the enzyme that breaks down mercaptan, so some of you can eat all the asparagus you want without stinking up the place. One study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology found that only 46 percent of British people tested produced the odor while 100 percent of French people tested did.

There truly is an answer to every question out there in the tubes.

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[2007.02.07 - 12:30 P.M.]

Last Thirteen:

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[2007.02.06 - 10:45 A.M.]

This headline just came across the BBC RSS feed:

Officer Suspended in Dink Probe

The story's pretty good too, in that it contains repeated references to "Mr. Dink".

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[2007.02.05 - 05:30 P.M.]

This is too funny. ESPN has a poll up asking "Who should be the Bears' starting quarterback in 2007?" The choices are Rex Grossman, Brian Griese, Kyle Orton, and "Other". As of 5:30 PM, "Other" leads with 37%...

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[2007.02.05 - 08:00 A.M.]

Heroes: You know, of the shows I review, this is the hardest to synopsize. So much going on in, what, forty minutes of television? OK, here goes. After several attempts to play the Dickhead Who Knows Something But Won't Help, Invisible Guy finally comes to Peter's rescue just as Nathan and Mohinder are trying to lock him down. Matt is trying to nail Claire's dad for secretly holding Syler, but HRG pulls a fast one on him, resulting in FBI chick putting the kibosh on their investigation and Matt getting suspended from the force for six months. DL visits Niki in her padded cell to bitch about how he can't make ends meet -- dude, you can walk through walls and you can't figure out a way to make money off that? -- so she decides to ask for professional help corralling Jessica. Both of them are unaware during this conversation that Micah's genetically-enhanced facility with electronic devices has made cash flow a non-issue. In the big shocker, Claire discovers that her birth mother is still alive (and appears to be a human Zippo). We are also teased with the fact that Claire's birth father will be revealed this week (Tracy's money is on it being Nathan). Finally, in the most annoying twist of the episode, Hiro has completely "lost" his powers. This seems to be a recurring plot device in superhero stories (see Superman II and Spiderman II for just two examples) and it always aggravates me. It's perfectly clear that the whole problem is in Hiro's head, and yeah it'll be cool when he gets the bad-ass Samurai sword, but it rings false for me that it has to come to that. Of course, Hiro's thread did have one awesome twist when it was revealed that his dad is... George... Takei. (I wish I could type that like he says it.)

House: This last episode was a House first: There was no case. No patient with a bizarre disease that it takes three tries to solve -- each risking the person's life to an ever-greater degree -- and that eventually yields itself to some stunning leap of logic by our curmudgeonly diagnostician. Nope, this was just House and a rape victim who won't let him walk away from her. And it was great. Out of character, unusual, and... great. A complete surprise. The final twenty minutes were basically an extended rap session on the (non)existence of God and the existential ramifications of bad things happening to good people. I mean, I'm not hoping House goes soft or anything, but it was quite interesting seeing him actually open up for the first time in two and half seasons. (Meanwhile, in a throw-away side plot, Dr. Cameron eases the passing of a terminal cancer patient by exposing him to her hotness.)

Friday Night Lights: Four big developments this past week. First, after visiting him at his home and forging an emotional connection grounded in their shared love of the game (cough), coach Taylor clears Smash to play. Now the question is whether the whole steroids storyline just fades into memory or whether the writers are just cooling it off so they can bring it back in a crucial situation a few weeks down the road. (Just before the state championship, maybe?) Second, Street blurts out the news of his and Lyla's engagement in front of her dad, who does not take the news well. Discussions around this development later lead to Street sharing a moment with coach Taylor (the world's most emotionally-available coach?) outside the courthouse prior to, you know, suing him and stuff. Third, QB1 gets the superstar treatment from the Rally Girls, who cajole him into some hot-tub shots for their annual calendar. Saracen then lies about this to Julie (stoooooo-pid) and she, predictably, flips out on him. (Please, please, please don't let them break up.) Fourth and finally, Riggins visits his dad to get a signature for a court form, and father and son wind up having a twenty-four-hour bonding session which seems to end angrily as Dad uses a golf bet to avoid attending Riggins' upcoming game but -- wait! -- in the closing moments, as the Panthers take the field, there he is, at the gate, waiting to see his son. Yeah, you laugh, but Tracy and I both teared up. Next week: Football. (Ugh.)

Smallville: There's no better recipe for jaw-dropping outrageousness than Clark + Red Kryptonite. It all begins when Lois buys a love-potion lipstick at a local Valentine's Day bash which causes her to fall in love with the Boy O' Steel. She then performs an oral transfer of this concoction to Clark, utterly ignorant of the effect that the "secret ingredient" will have on him. This all culminates in a priceless scene where Clark crashes Lana and Lex's engagement party and proceeds to embarrass his mom (whoring after Lionel), Lana (going after Lex to hurt Clark), Lex (always wanting to steal Clark's life), Chloe (just 'cause), then Lana and Lex again by revealing to the assembled crowd that Lana is preggers. Fucking killer three-minute span right there. The episode wraps up with a crucial sequence in Clark's barn. During a confrontation over Lana, Lex tries to stab Clark with an awl, which crumples and falls to the floor. And Lana sees it. The teaser for next week suggests that finally -- finally! -- Lana might be about to discover the Super Secret. It is about. Fucking. Time.

Supernatural: Uh-boy. Kind of a nauseatingly religion-drenched episode as Sam and Dean track down an "avenging angel" outside Providence, Rhode Island. I simply was not prepared to see Sam, who I've got a bit of a man crush on, admit that he's a... a... believer. It kind of freaked me out. Anyhow, turns out the "angel" was the avenging spirit of a recently-deceased priest. But still, the damage was done. The seal was broken. They brought Him into the story. Here's hoping things don't head south as a result...

The Office: Looks like the Pam-Jim-Karen thing is going to keep dragging on for a while. The girls had a talk, and rather than being honest about her feelings for Jim, Pam assured Karen that she was, like, totally okay with her dating the love of her fucking life. (OK, she didn't actually put it that way.) Meanwhile, dueling parties are staged as the women hold a wedding shower for Phyllis and the guys (to be fair) are treated to a bachelor bash (without an actual bachelor). Michael's moment of excruciating discomfort with the stripper was hysterical, but it was also something I can actually identify with. I've never understood how a guy is supposed to get aroused with two dozen other guys around him egging him on. It just seems weird to me. (Yeah, I know I'm in the minority here, but still.) The real fun, though, was over at the girls' party with skeevy Ben Franklin. Bllllllrrrrghghghghg. Well played, my creepy friend. Oh, and hey! Where's Andy??? Did they fire him?

CSI: Considering this show has tackled both infantilism and gratification via asphyxiation, I was surprised at how much this particular episode creeped me out. It's not the gigolo thing. Male whoring isn't anything new or exotic. No, it's the whole "selling a relationship" angle. That's some weird shit right there. Didn't help, either, that the guy at the center of this plot was a freakishly ugly thing: Giant, arching, Freddie-Prinze clown eyebrows, no chin, boyish in an altogether asexual way, and this is the guy women are blowing their life savings to have a fake relationship with? By the time it was revealed that the victim was the dude's Mom, who was making a sickeningly futile attempt to, um, "reconnect" with him, my capacity to be grossed out was completely exhausted.

Rome: Superbowl-induced DVR delay.

Battlestar Galactica: Off this week.

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[2007.02.04 - 12:00 P.M.]

9:58 PM: Congratulations to Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts, winners of Superbowl XLI by a score of 29 to 17. It wasn't the prettiest game in the world, but that's OK. With this post-season run, Peyton and the Colts proved themselves in every way possible. They announced the arrival of their new D by containing the league's #2 rusher. They won a low-scoring slug-fest against the league's top-rated defense. Then they won a shootout against the Pats, mounting the biggest comeback in conference championship history. And finally, they won a sloppy game in shitty conditions against yet another tough defense. Anyone have any more questions for 'em? Anyone want to talk any more shit about Peyton choking in big games? No, I didn't think so. Good night, all. Thanks for a great NFL season here, and be sure to join us for week one on the Couch next September.

9:08 PM: End of the third. Colts and Bears traded field goals at a 2 to 1 clip, leaving Indy with a 22 - 17 lead. Other than that not much to remark on. As Angelos notes in comments, every single statistic says the Colts should be killing the Bears, and yet the game sits at under a TD differential. Not a comfortable place to be for those of us pulling for Peyton.

8:07 PM: God, Prince sucks. I'm trying to figure out what aggravates me so much about him these days, because I used to be a pretty big Prince fan in the 80's. You know what it is? He's become his very own tribute band. You see him now and it's like he's lifelessly, mechanically trying to replicate exactly what he was during the Purple Rain era. It's just embarrassing. Grow or go, dude.

7:58 PM: Question of the night: How has Shark still not been cancelled?

7:56 PM: Halftime. Adam Vinatieri shanks a FG attempt to the left, leaving the Colts lead at 16 - 14. Wait, let me type that again because I can't believe it happened: Adam Vinatieri shanked a field goal. In the playoffs. Now I've seen everything.

7:50 PM: Back-to-back turnovers for the second time tonight and we're still in the first half. Yeah, this won't be remembered as one of the cleanest Superbowls ever played.

7:34 PM: Touchdown! Dominic Rhodes! Nice drive there by the Colts. Two big passes in a row by Manning to Harrison and then Clark. Colts take the lead 16 - 14. Sweet.

7:17 PM: It's official! We have our first excellent Superbowl commercial. The Coke ad with the Grand Theft Auto dude who starts being nice to everyone? Hysterical.

7:15 PM: End of the first quarter. Bears 14 - Colts 6. Sloppy game so far due to the weather. Not real promising for the Colts. This rain is the one fucking thing that could truly undo them.

6:51 PM: And a turnover by Chicago on the kickoff. Outstanding. This is Indy's chance to erase that damned opening TD... except that fucking Addai fumbles it on the ensuing play. Jesus Fuck! And then a HUGE 52-yard run by Thomas Jones. ARRRGH! OK, this is apparently going to be one of those games...

6:48 PM: Touchdown, Manning to Wayne, 53 yards!!! Beautiful pass to a wide-open Reggie Wayne. Of course, we have to hope the missed XP off that stupid botched snap doesn't fuck them in the end. Bears 7 - Colts 6 with six minutes and change left in the first quarter.

6:29 PM: Um, just about the worst possible way a game can start, no? Giving up a TD on the opening kickoff return? But, fine, whatever. Colts can afford to spot the Bears seven, right? Right?

6:28 PM: Goddammit. Colts call tails on the coin toss and it comes up heads. Fucking chokers.

6:20 PM: I love Billy Joel, but that was kind of a lackluster anthem. Couple of false notes, not a lot of power left in his voice these days, desultory job on the piano. Meh.

4:00 PM: Two things about that Jericho ad: First... Jericho didn't get cancelled? Second, they're referring to the twelve episodes they've got coming up as "the new season". So did BSG blaze some sort of weird trail here? Are shows going to start having two "seasons" per calendar year? In the past, a television "season" has always run from the Fall through the Spring. Defining them in terms of blocks of episodes is definitely a new development.

3:59 PM: That Stevie Nicks performance has to rank as one of the Most Awful Rock n' Roll Moments in history. Jesus, woman, hang it up. You look like shit and you can't sing anymore (not that you ever really could).

3:45 PM: Quick squirrel update. I don't know what's going on, but in the last month Fuckface and his posse have gotten unbelievably brazen. Used to be a rap on the glass would send them flying from the bird feeder back to their tree. Now there's no amount of slamming on the window that will budge them. Today, I come home and Tracy tells me that there had been two of them on either side of the feeder, and she was standing in the door whipping nuts at them and they wouldn't move. She then tried to hit them with a basketball (missed, obviously) and they ignored that too. Finally, she had to actually poke one with a broomstick to get it to move. I mean, what the fuck is next? Are we going to come in one night and find them on the couch eating our snacks?

3:24 PM: Um, how many more months (years?) until the "Heavily-Gelled Messy Hair That Sticks Up In The Air At Random Angles" hairstyle goes out of fashion? Because, really, the more ubiquitous it becomes, the more stupid it's starting to look.

2:36 PM: OK, seeing as it appears we're going to have a Norbitt commercial every single commercial break, I have to ask: Why the fuck do so many black male comedians seem to think it is the height of comedy to dress up as fat black women?

GRAB A COLD ONE

12:00 PM: Friends, readers, football fans: That greatest of days on the sporting calendar is finally upon us! Grab a cold one, fluff up a cushion and sit your ass down for Superbowl Sunday on the TwoGlasses Virtual Couch™. Right about now I figure the first of the pregame shows have to be getting underway somewhere, so why not get the couch kicking early as well? We'll have random commentary and occasional beer blogging between now and kickoff, followed by the usual piercing game-time insights as the title match between the Colts and Bears unfolds.

Aside from ESPN's Mike and Mike show and a handful of articles I've scanned in the Courant's sports page, I have been blissfully unexposed to the last two weeks of Superbowl buildup, leaving me fully charged and ready for today's 10-hour-long extravaganza. There was one great article by Dan Le Batard in ESPN Magazine discussing the random unfairness that landed Peyton Manning with the "choker" label while Tom Brady, despite having ended the Pats' last two seasons by throwing picks, will be forever "clutch". Unfortunately, while I'd just love to share this piece with you, it appears to be print only. Worth a look if you see the current issue of The Magazine laying around your doctor's or dentist's office.

Anyhow, on to today's game. The overwhelming consensus of the experts is that the Colts win this game. And I mean "overwhelming" as in "I'm unaware of a single sportscaster or sports writer who has picked the Bears." This is a little disturbing, in that it sets up a perfect "Shock the World" scenario for Chicago. Even more troublesome is the forecast for rain, wind and fog in the Miami area, which threatens to ground the Colts air show. Cause for concern? Sure, I guess. But something tells me that nothing -- not the weather, not the media, not anything -- will see Peyton Manning denied. Today, the best quarterback in the NFL earns the ultimate validation of his already-HOF-caliber career. Colts win, 27-20.

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[2007.02.04 - 11:30 A.M.]

Little Miss Sunshine: (Warning: Some spoilers.) Last week, Tracy and I bumped this movie up to the top of our queue so that we could see at least one Oscar contender before the awards. Good call on our part. I'll say right up front that I'm a sucker for this sort of movie: The ensemble cast of flawed and broken humans that finds strength and happiness together in the face of life's absurdities. Throw in the always-fun road movie angle, plus the fact that this got a big thumbs-up from my film guru Fridge, and I pretty much knew I was going to love Little Miss Sunshine. Great performances all around, but especially strong jobs by Steve "Hey This Dude Can Act" Carell as Frank, the nation's preeminent gay, suicidal Proust scholar, and Paul Dano as Dwayne, the Nietsche-obsessed wannabe fighter-pilot teen who steals the first half of the movie as he struggles to interact with his family while observing a self-imposed vow of silence. The Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, however, goes to the VW micro bus, for it is this ridiculous vehicle that keeps injecting silliness back into the movie whenever it threatens to become too serious. The push-starting gimmick never gets old, and I don't think I've ever seen my wife laugh more uncontrollably than she did when that stupid horn wouldn't stop bleating and whining as they're driving along. (OK, here's the spoiler.) As for the final scene - the Little Miss Sunshine competition itself - I was completely taken by surprise. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I guess in the back of my mind I was expecting some feel-good, Disney-esque ending where fat little Olive pulls off some incredible tap-dancing routine or something and wins it all. What she gives us instead is four minutes of "Ohmyfuckinggod I can't believe this". Just a hysterical and priceless example of victory in defeat. For a brief span, it's Olive's world and we're just living in it. Expected: 7.5 -- Actual: 7.5

Chicken Run: Here's my question: How is it a better business model to convert your 100-or-so chickens into chicken pies -- a one-time proposition -- instead of leveraging their egg production as an ongoing investment? Throw in what had to be an enormous capital outlay for the automated chicken-to-pie conversion equipment and it just seems like Mrs. Tweedy was giving in to short-sightedness and frustration, to say nothing of returning to a form of industrialism that is clearly outmoded here in the new millennium. Oh, wait, what's that you say? These aren't the themes the movie maker wants me to investigate? Well, I'm sorry, but the more obvious freedom versus slavery, rebellion versus complacency storylines weren't nearly as compelling as advertised. See, I actually remember reading a review of this film when it came out that called it "subversive", so I was more than a little disappointed at the cookie-cutter plot. If I'm going to watch a "G" movie, there better be something more in it for me. Aside from some great puns and goofy wordplay -- the movie is packed with these -- there just wasn't much of interest here. To be fair, the animation was pretty cool. The stop-action filming using clay models and characters interspersed with real human items like spoons and zippers was a huge relief from the torrent of CGI-animated films that have lately overrun the market. As a mostly digital guy I feel weird saying this, but these chickens seemed far more gritty and real than the protagonists in The Incredibles or Toy Story could ever hope to be. Overall, though, this definitely fell short of my expectations. Expected: 6.0 -- Actual: 4.5

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[2007.02.03 - 12:45 P.M.]

I used to think there was nothing more annoying at the grocery store than getting stuck in line behind an old lady who's paying for her groceries by check. I was wrong. Do you know what's even more annoying? Getting stuck behind an old lady who's paying for her groceries by check in the self-checkout line.

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[2007.02.02 - 05:30 P.M.]

Friday night and it's time for... BEER AND BOURBON! Oh, and Slices of Toast too. WHOOOOO-Boy, what a two-day stretch at the ol' office. Definitely occasions some two-fisted consumption. Friends and readers, I have truly passed into the long, dark night of the software designer's soul. The lesson I have recently been forced to (re)learn? Never, ever, ever assume that a project cannot get more fucked up than it already is. If you do, people and events will immediately conspire to prove you wrong. But, hey, nothing that a quiet weekend at home with the wife and a fully-stocked liquor cabinet can't cure, at least temporarily. Oh, and I think I heard something about some big football game that's being played on Sunday...

(Slice Track: Cheap Trick - "If You Want My Love")

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When I navigated over to my home-slice Fridge's blog this morning, I was prepared to see pretty much anything except for a post titled The Case Against Religious Moderation. And yet that is what I saw. Really: I went back just now and checked and, yes, it's still there. You should go read it.

Heh. The Man Comes Around...

(Slice Track: The Beatles - "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da")

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Uh oh. Turns out I may have been premature in giving Mr. Howard QOTD honors. Here's Josh Marshall on the continuing Karbala nonsense:

"[I]f it turns out the culprits behind the Karbala raid were not Iranian-trained but US-trained, should we attack ourselves?"

That's some stiff competition there, John. Feel free to vote for a winner in the comments section.

(Slice Track: Joe Jackson - "It's Different For Girls")

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[2007.02.02 - 11:30 A.M.]

John Howard, commenting on the spastic overreaction to the Cartoon Network's goofy little marketing devices:

"Perhaps the worst result of the September 11th terrorist attacks, other than the obvious loss of life, is that it has given people an excuse to act like complete and utter pussies."

Truer words have never been spoken.

Click through and read the rest, too. Funny stuff.

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